AKRON — Hundreds of armed far-right extremists, including “Sieg Heil” chanting neo-Nazis, joined by right-wing Christian groups, converged on a park in Ohio where parents and children had gathered to enjoy a drag queen story event Saturday.
The extremists clashed with rainbow umbrella-wielding supporters who had shown up to protect the event.
At Wadsworth Memorial Park outside Akron, the Rock-n-Roll Humanist Drag Queen Story Hour ended in chaos as tensions raged between activists and protesters.
A number of far-right extremist and religious groups, including the Proud Boys, Patriot Front, III Percenters, “White Lives Matter of Ohio,” Blood Tribe (a neo-Nazi movement led by former Marine Chris Pohlhaus, who was armed), and unaffiliated conservatives, attended the event to disrupt it.
Documentarian Ford Fisher captured the ensuing clashes on several videos posted to Twitter.
For crowd control, local police had set up metal barriers before the event, but they allowed far-right extremists to carry out their organized terror campaign, screaming racial and sexual slurs and hurling vitriol at families simply trying to have a good time.
Protesters carried weapons and performed Nazi salutes. At one point, a masked extremist pointed at a Black supporter of the story hour and yelled, “There’s a ni**er fa**ot!”
Children were shielded from the hatred on display by the Parasol Patrol throughout the raucous scenes. During events where detractors may appear, the Parasol Patrol uses rainbow-colored umbrellas to escort families safely to LGBTQ-friendly venues. Sometimes they also give kids headphones to wear, so they don’t hear people yelling outrageous things.
One protester pulled a gun and pointed it at a group of supporters at one point in the video and tried to shoot it twice but failed. The unidentified man was later arrested in another incident after he appeared to strike someone with a pole.
Police are investigating the gun incident, the Akron Beacon Journal reports.
Many protesters had signs with messages such as ‘White lives matter’ and ‘Mothers against grooming,’ referring to the false claim that LGBTQ+ people are seeking to exploit children sexually.
Around 15 children were seated inside the venue while Rose, the storyteller, read about treating others how they want to be treated and being good, the Medina Gazette reports. Rose and the children then sang and danced while playing air guitars.
Last week, during a Wadsworth City Council meeting, the council president indicated that although the permit for the event had been granted, he would seek to introduce legislation making any drag entertainment for adults only, Cleveland’s Fox affiliate WJW reports.
Drag queens are being vilified by Republicans nationwide, who claim that reading to children in whimsical dresses and costumes constitutes sexualizing them.
Recently, Tennessee became the first state in the nation to ban drag in public where kids might be able to see a drag queen, while a Republican legislator in Texas just introduced a bill that makes ordinary citizens bounty hunters, allowing them to collect $5,000 through civil litigation if they believe a child was subjected to drag.
Despite the tense and violent rhetoric that sometimes escalated to physical interactions, no injuries were reported during the four-hour-long event.
Akron, Ohio is the home town of NBA superstar LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers.