Pride events marked by a wave of anti-LGBTQ threats and violence

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The rise of right-wing hate propaganda against LGBTQ people is turning into violence, with high-profile attacks this month raising fears of Pride celebrations across the country.

Extremism researchers have long warned of a growing risk as far-right Republicans and activist groups portray LGBTQ people as “groomers” targeting children, along with other baseless slanders. Now provocateurs are acting on those messages in what President Biden last month called “escalating hatred and violence” targeting LGBTQ communities.

Attacks intensified this month during the first major Pride events since the lifting of pandemic restrictions, including the thwarted attempt by the white nationalist Patriot Front to disrupt a celebration in northern Idaho.

In recent days, right-wing politicians and preachers have openly called for the killing of LGBTQ people. On a conservative talk show, Mark Burns, a congressional candidate allied with Donald Trump from South Carolina, called “LGBT, transgender grooming” a national security threat and proposed using treason laws as a basis for “executing” parents and teachers who stand up for LGBTQ rights. Last Sunday in Texas, a pastor spoke out against Pride Month and said LGBTQ people “should be lined up against the wall and shot in the head.”

A study published Thursday indicates that these are not isolated incidents. Anti-LGBTQ activity, including protests and attacks, more than quadrupled between 2020 and 2021, from 15 incidents to 61, according to the global nonprofit conflict monitoring group known as ACLED. In early June, ACLED counted 33 anti-LGBTQ incidents so far this year, pointing to an even bleaker 2022.

The resulting fear is a common theme in social media posts by LGBTQ people describing palpable changes in their collective sense of safety. Hateful looks. Ugly insults. Vandalized rainbow flags.

Baltimore authorities are investigating two separate fires in the same block this week – one in a house where a Pride flag was set on fire, and another across the street in a house decorated for Pride, according to local reports. . Three people were injured in one of the fires.

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Analysts draw a direct link between political hate speech and attacks on the ground. The ACLED report notes that the rise in violence comes as “right-wing politicians and the media have ramped up the use of increasingly inflammatory rhetoric against the LGBT+ community.”

Trans people have been particularly targeted. The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, says the past year has seen record violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people. Women of color, especially black trans women, were the most frequent targets.

During the same period, state lawmakers introduced more than 250 anti-LGBTQ bills, many of which sought to prevent transgender youth from participating in sports. At least 24 of the bills have been signed into law, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, giving anti-LGBTQ activism “one of its most successful years” in terms of legislation.

LGBTQ media advocacy group GLAAD said political hate speech leads to violence in a statement released after the arrests in Idaho. The group said “anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and the nearly 250 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced this year are responsible for this dangerous climate,” along with tech platforms that “fuel the hate and misinformation that inspires groups.” white supremacists like the Patriot Front”.

Targets said the attacks were baffling even when they did not involve physical violence.

In San Lorenzo, Calif., on Saturday, a group of suspected Proud Boys, a far-right group with a history of violence, interrupted an hour of drag queen narration by shouting anti-LGBTQ slurs in an incident over which the authorities are investigating as a hate crime. In an interview with Teen Vogue, event host Kyle Chu, whose drag name is Panda Dulce, described up to 10 Proud Boys walking, including one in a T-shirt sporting a gun and the words “Kill your local pedophile.”

“We stopped the song and the Proud Boys…started throwing slurs, calling me a pedophile and a groomer,” Chu said in the interview, adding that she was taken to a secure room while the organizers called the authorities. Chu called the incident “terrifying”.

In Arlington, Texas, the Proud Boys were among protesters who showed up to a drag brunch for a crowd of over-21s. amateur video of the incident shared online by LGBTQ activists showed protesters shouting anti-gay slurs in the faces of their targets. A man was filmed acknowledging he was blocking brunch attendees, claiming he was making a ‘citizen’s arrest’.

Extremism monitors from the Anti-Defamation League tracked seven in-person extremist activities targeting LGBTQ people over the past weekend, according to an ADL summary of recent threats. The summary included a June 12 Pride event in Georgia that was canceled due to anonymous threats “targeting the location, time and date of the rally.” In another incident the next day, according to the ADL, white supremacists in New Jersey protested a drag event at a Pride celebration, “with one individual displaying a sign that read ‘Hands off the children. “.”

Bullying has also led to moments of defiance, such as in North Carolina, where threats of violence prompted organizers to cancel a drag queen storytelling event at Pride in Apex, a suburb of the capital, Raleigh. Local reports said city officials had received complaints and the festival president had been warned that he and his family “would be hurt” if the event went ahead.

Outraged, an advocacy group called Equality North Carolina stepped in to sponsor Apex Pride and reinstate storytime. The group said in a statement that LGBTQ people will fight attempts “to invade our spaces, silence us, scatter us and limit our freedom to be ourselves in our community.”

Several of the incidents illustrate what the ACLED report called “cross-pollination opportunities,” the coalescing of disparate right-wing factions around common goals such as critical race theory, pandemic-era lockdowns and access to abortion. These days, anti-LGBTQ activism has topped the list.

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The report notes that a June 4 protest against a drag show in Dallas brought together “self-proclaimed ‘Christian fascists’, adherents of the QAnon conspiracy movement” and several other extremist factions.

“They’re actually building solidarity and the left isn’t,” said Eric Stanley, associate professor of gender and women’s studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

For Stanley, also a community organizer, the question is personal. Threatening emails arrive every week. Stanley is always on the lookout for unfamiliar faces among the students, wondering “who is going to film you, who is going to storm the classroom, who is going to attack you.

“For the past few years, I’ve really been thinking, ‘Where are the exits? Is it too high to jump out that window?’” said Stanley, who teaches trans studies classes.

Still, Stanley doesn’t want the current danger “to be used as a justification for hiring more police, putting more police in Pride, putting more police in schools.”

Whether – or how much – to work with law enforcement is a controversial topic, as LGBTQ advocates determine how to respond. Stanley belongs to the camp that rejects partnership with the police because of longstanding patterns of discrimination and violence by law enforcement.

Other organizations have close ties to law enforcement officials, but recognize the frictions.

“With everything that’s happened in the Black Lives Matter movement and distrust of the police, it’s really difficult and tricky to navigate,” said Jeff Mack, executive vice president of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, an LGBTQ nonprofit group that supports victims of hate. crimes.

Those who prefer to work with the police were encouraged by the fact that authorities in Idaho arrested dozens of masked members of the white nationalist group Patriot Front before they could disrupt a Pride event Saturday in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The city’s police chief said the group, crammed into the back of a U-Haul, had a “plan of operations” for Pride and equipment such as shin guards, shields, helmets, at least one smoke grenade and long metal poles.

The 31 men charged with conspiracy to riot were from at least 11 states, including Colorado, a point that was noted during a Denver Pride planning call on Monday, two days after the incident in the Idaho.

Mack said he and other Hate Free Colorado organizers were “in disbelief” and couldn’t help but wonder what they might face in Denver later this month. However, there was no question of backing down.

“We’re not going to let them win and we’re going to take every precaution to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Mack said. “We all recognize that we just have to be hypervigilant and hyperaware, but we’re not going to let them take away our celebration of who we are.”

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