Since November 21, 124 drag events in the United States have been the target of protests and significant threats, according to a report from GLAAD. A graphic from the report shows that all states except West Virginia and South Dakota have reported at least one anti-drag attack. While the graphic shows that Ohio has had only one event, the Buckeye State became the target of another anti-drag protest by the Proud Boys and other right-wing militias on December 3.
On the very same day GLAAD released its report, the website Right Wing Watch published an article stating the Columbus, Ohio chapter of the right-wing extremist militia, the Proud Boys were planning to protest a drag story event in Columbus.
The event, Holi-drag Storytime, hosted by Red Oak Community School, a private elementary school, was to take place at the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Ohio’s capital city. According to the Buckeye Flame, local drag queens Mikayla Denise, Bianca Debonair, and Ava Aurora Foxx were scheduled to read children’s stories and perform holiday-themed numbers at the event.
Hours before the event on December 3, Cheryl Ryan, School Manager, Red Oak Community School made a statement concerning the cancelation of the Holi-Drag Storytime event. In the recorded statement, which can be viewed in full below, Ryan stated:
When the Proud Boys stated they would show up to intimidate and harass and bully our attendees and organizers, we had to make a decision about how we were going to keep everyone safe. I spent a week calling our police department and leaving voicemails about the reports we had seen. After a week, I was told we could hire a special duty police officer who may or may not show up because they are understaffed. I was given an e-mail address.
Ryan went on to explain that a community defense team approached her offering to execute a safety plan. Ryan also described that the Columbus Police were unresponsive in regard to the growing concerns of safety despite the City Council making a statement that the police “were monitoring the situation and will work to ensure that the event can occur peacefully.”
Ryan further expounded:
I never heard this message from the city’s leadership and those whose job it is to protect us.
In the end, our performers felt unsafe without a police presence, while our safety team felt unsafe with a police presence.
We decided it was not safe to proceed and our Red Oak planning group made the call to cancel. While we felt strongly that the police’s casual distant acknowledgement of our event illustrated that they would not keep us safe, we also have to validate that our performers did not feel safe unless there was law enforcement in the building.
Columbus Police released a statement to the Buckeye Flame in response to Ryan’s statement. The statement described:
“The Columbus Division of Police is aware of a statement made earlier today about our involvement in the Holi-Drag Storytime event. Unfortunately, what was said about our involvement is incorrect.
CPD learned about this event through Facebook and immediately reached out to the church and the school. A face-to-face meeting took place with all parties on November 18th to talk about the event and a safety plan. The school did request a special duty officer, but cancelled that request on the same day of the meeting.”
The statement from the Columbus Police Department went on to claim that the “CPD pulled together resources from several units to make sure we were present, including officers from our bike patrol and dialogue team. Even though the event was canceled, we still had personnel and officers in the area to make sure all parties were safe.”
Many people took to Twitter to rebuke this claim from the Columbus Police Department.
Here are posts from The Columbus Proud Boys that I informed CPD that I had and their refusal with every threat increasing in violence. When I asked to speak with Chief Elaine Bryant my call was sent to a full voicemail and never with an assistant. pic.twitter.com/xX2FYRneSw
— Ray (@rjohdomingo) December 3, 2022
You wished the white supremecist fascists “good luck” https://t.co/VezaPLvDox
— Terri (@Lovemypupper) December 4, 2022
The City of Columbus Police Department, with all of it's controversial use-of-force issues, allows the proud boys to congregate outside of a story time event.
Columbus needs a new mayor and a new chief of police. https://t.co/iYmiUWkTQr
— Blue Sea (@VastBlueSea10) December 4, 2022
Proud Boys and cops in Columbus, OH. Ohio is the armpit of the world. (I’m on the PA/OH border, so I’m armpit-adjacent.) https://t.co/Ht2L3Viry4
— Amy Brown (@AmyBrow29427071) December 3, 2022
A police officer in Columbus, Ohio is caught making friends with white nationalists pic.twitter.com/qpVGf1pUcQ
— Marjorie Gaylor Queen 🏳️🌈 (@Tim_Tweeted) December 3, 2022