Armed protest at Christmas drag show highlights heightened LGBTQ threats

A group of armed protesters gathered outside a theater in San Antonio, Texas on Tuesday to protest an annual holiday-themed drag show. This was the second time a theater in the city had recently been targeted for hosting LGBTQ events.

Far-right group This is Texas Freedom Force (TITFF), classified by the FBI as a “militia extremist group,” announced the planned protest outside the Aztec Theater on their social media accounts ahead of Tuesday’s show. The group claims on his Twitter account that the show was about the “care of children” and wants drag shows in the state to be restricted to those 18 and older.

Armed extremist group protests against drag show
A vest with a trans flag on the back reading “Don’t Fear” is worn at a Gays Against Guns memorial service held in New New York on November 20, 2022 to honor those in the trans community who have been affected by Gun violence killed York City. On Tuesday, armed protesters converged outside a theater in San Antonio during a Christmas drag show, claiming the event threatens children.
Alex Kent/Getty Images

In response to the far-right group’s threats, members of the local LGBTQ community organized a counter-protest in support of the show, which travels to 36 different cities throughout the months of November and December. Corresponding Steven MonacolliReporter at the non-profit magazine The Texas Observerthe counter-protesters more than doubled the TITFF group at one point.

In the previous anti-LGBTQ incident in San Antonio, the Starlighter Theater announced on Dec. 4 that it was canceling all drag performances for the rest of the year due to personal threats, according to a Texas Public Radio (TPR) report online.

“The goal of The Starlighter has always been to provide a safe space for entertainment for all ages and unfortunately we now feel unsafe in our own space,” the venue wrote in a statement posted to its Instagram page.

On Tuesday, TITFF posted a photo of the counter-protesters on Twitter and wrote: “This is what children’s hairdressers look like.”

According to TPR, the San Antonio Police Department said it was “aware of recent protests at LGBTQ+ events across the country,” writing in a statement to the outlet that it was monitoring Tuesday’s holiday drag show.

Unsubstantiated claims of drag performances being used to groom children’s guests have risen in recent months, leading to increased attacks on the LGBTQ community. Some GOP state legislators have also introduced anti-LGBTQ laws building on the backless allegations, including in Texas, where a bill introduced for the 2023 session would define drag shows as a “sexually oriented business.” State law prohibits minors from attending events that are considered “sexually oriented.”

The US Department of Homeland Security said in its Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin in late November that there continues to be an “elevated threat” of violence in the US, including because of “violent extreme ideologies.” The department also listed members of the LGBTQ community as a potential target of such violence, citing the recent shooting at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, as a high-profile example.

Hate crime statistics released Monday by the FBI reported a total of 7,303 cases in 2021, up from 8,263 reports in 2020. But organizations like the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino (CSUSB) say the FBI report was incomplete, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

According to the AP, less than two-thirds of all law enforcement agencies reported hate crime data to the FBI last year, a large decrease from the 80 percent reported in 2020. Big cities like New York and Los Angeles also didn’t participate in the 2021 report, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

According to the CSUSB analysis, hate crimes increased by 21 percent over the same period, and hatred against LGBTQ increased by 51.3 percent in the cities surveyed. The same report also found that anti-transgender crime increased by 6 percent.

news week has reached out to the San Antonio Police Department for comment. Armed protest at Christmas drag show highlights heightened LGBTQ threats

Rick Schindler

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