Fascist protesters outnumbered by LGBTQ supporters at Cleveland drag story hour
A few of the counter-demonstrators who swamped the fascist protest. | People's World

CLEVELAND, Ohio—Supporters of the LGBTQ community vastly outnumbered fascist demonstrators at a Drag Story Hour event here over the weekend.

On Saturday, May 13, a handful of fascist demonstrators, religious fundamentalists, and their allies gathered outside of a local theater on the west side of Cleveland to intimidate and threaten children and families participating in the Drag Story Hour.

They were met by a broad popular front of LGBTQ supporters carrying rainbow umbrellas meant to physically shield participants from messages of hate. The crowd sang songs and danced to drown out the voices of the anti-LGBTQ demonstrators. Artists left behind colorful murals in chalk that spread across the road in front of Near West Theater.

Right-wing zealots organized via Telegram in the days before the event, which they branded ‘Pedophile Story Hour.’

“It was a very beautiful and wholesome event,” reported Tim Zelina, who participated in the demonstration. “The organizers did a wonderful job of keeping things controlled and peaceful. The fascists were corralled to the other side of the street, a safe distance from the story hour. They tried to harass the kids from a distance with a megaphone, but we drowned them out with chanting and singing.”

The event featured drag performers dancing and leading crafting activities for children ages 3 to 8 and their families. The show, “Veranda’s Living Room,” has been running since 2019 and aims to challenge gender stereotypes and “share messages of love and inclusivity.”

After the show, performers met with organizers of the counter-demonstration to express their gratitude and joy in response to the tremendous community support. “Thank you from the bottom of my glitter-soaked heart,” said one performer to the group gathered in the theater.

Fascist groups had sought to characterize the performance as a “Pedophile Story Hour Protest” in flyers that circulated on Telegram channels in the days prior to the performance. The grassroots organization Angels in Action became aware of this activity and planned its own counter-demonstration.

The hate squad. | People’s World

Following closely behind displays of intimidation against the LGBTQ community in Wadsworth and Columbus, organizers in Cleveland planned to send a message that supporters of the LGBTQ community far outnumber the fascists. Videos posted online featured supporters singing “You Are My Sunshine,” completely drowning out the noise of a megaphone from the fascist camp.

Activist Molly Nagin described her experience at the counter-demonstration:

“It felt inspiring to be a part of a community that put our bodies between fascists and drag queens, kids, and their families. To do so on Mother’s Day weekend made me think about how LGBT rights are reproductive rights and how important it is to combat the propaganda that LGBT people are pedophiles or groomers. LGBT people have children, they are children, and they care for children in our communities.”

The recent upsurge in open fascist intimidation in the state of Ohio comes at a time when MAGA Republicans in the state legislature are moving rapidly to suppress democratic governance in the state.

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A recent bill forced through the state legislature, despite broad public opposition, sets a special election for Aug. 8 that would require citizen-initiated amendments to the Ohio constitution to pass by a 60% margin rather than the current 50% +1 threshold that has served Ohio for the past 111 years.

MAGA Republicans in the state openly admit that the effort is aimed at blocking a November citizen ballot initiative that would protect access to abortion in the state constitution.

The contrast between the MAGA Republicans and the popular front of community support for LGBTQ rights was perfectly evident to Nagin.

“To the passerby, it couldn’t have been clearer which group of people cared about children—the ones who slung insults at them and shamed parents over loudspeakers, or a colorful community who sang welcoming children’s songs. I left the experience feeling extremely happy. Protecting people has never been so fun.”

Zelina agreed: “You could tell which side was motivated by love, and which side was motivated by hate.”

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David Hill
David Hill

David Hill is a member of the Mike Gold Writer’s Collective. He follows labor, LGBTQ rights, policing, and other issues. He is a member of the National Writers Union and Freelance Solidarity Project.