After threats from Nazis and other extremist groups forced leaders of the LGBT+ Center in Orlando to cancel a sold-out Drag Queen Story Hour event, dozens of people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or homosexual people and their supporters gathered outside on Saturday to rally against hate.
Supporters of the Center arrived as early as noon anticipating the possibility that at least 40 to 50 Nazis and others members of hate groups are reportedly coming forward as suggested by online threats made public on Monday.
“It was a chance for the kids to be able to see people, who are sometimes very much outside the heteronormative structure of their daily lives, engaging in really healthy activity,” said May Beck, a transgender activist representing No. More Dead Sisters, a group focused on transgender rights. “As has happened many times in many places, a mix of fascist groups and white nationalist groups called and threatened until the LGBT+ Center was forced to cancel the event out of fear and concern. for their safety…. We were meant to come here to show our solidarity, to show our support for the LGBT+ Center, and to build a stronger community among queer and trans people in the city.
At 2 p.m., when the canceled event would have started, Orlando police cars covered two blocks of Mills Avenue as dozens of officers on foot and on bikes patrolled the area.
No one who appeared to be a Nazi or a white supremacist showed up. Only eight people came out to protest the story hour. The group remained silent outside the Financial Bank Addition on Mills Avenue across from the Center holding a banner that featured a photo of Jesus standing with a child with the message: “Dear God: Do NOT let little children be perverted by drag queen story. hours!”
The banner said the group represented the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, a Catholic organization whose website says the group is ‘on the front lines of the culture war’ fighting for morality. American. Video on their group’s website shows them protesting outside another Drag Queen Story Hour event in Texas alongside posts reflecting anti-immigrant views and accusing Disney of encouraging witchcraft and calling on Disney to cancel. Hocus Pocus 2.
Across Mills Avenue, about four times as many LGBTQ people and allies held signs reading “No Place for Hate in Orlando” and speaking out against Nazism.
“Florida is not a place of white supremacy,” said Wallace Rivera, a Puerto Rican transgender man who came to support The Center. “It’s a whole community of people and we’re diverse. We’re Puerto Rican, we’re black, we’re white. Everyone here is welcome and we don’t need Nazis in our country these days. C It’s disrespectful, it’s painful, it’s saddening.
However, seeing more LGBTQ supporters was encouraging, Rivera added.
“We see so much hate online,” he said. “But when you come here in person, you see there’s a gay group, a love group, an appreciation group, a really loving, welcoming community.”