Roughly 200 community members rallied in support of a Dec. 10 drag storytime event in Renton. Earlier in the week, the far-right social media account Wake Up WA State had called on its supporters to demonstrate against the event, prompting a swift response from the queer community and its allies.
The drag storytime is a monthly, family-friendly event featuring drag artist Sylvia O’Stayformore that’s been hosted by the Brewmaster’s Taproom for more than two years. This month, however, the event fell in the crosshairs of rightwing activists amid a reactionary moral panic against drag queens, trans people and the queer community at large.
Earlier in the week, someone had shot what appeared to be a BB or pellet gun into the front window of the bar. Owner Marley Rall told King 5 that the business had received an influx of threats and harassment through social media.
The event comes just weeks after a gunman attacked a Colorado Springs drag show fundraiser held on the eve of Trans Day of Remembrance, killing five people and injuring dozens more.
In recent testimony to the U.S. House, Harvard legal instructor Alejandra Caraballo claimed that extremists have whipped up a frenzy on social media by accusing the LGBTQ+ community of harming children. She also said that states have passed anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, further exacerbating the hate.
The threats against the Dec. 10 event constitute at least the third anti-queer hate protest planned in Western Washington this year.
Renton City Councilmember Carmen Rivera said that she helped organize a response to the planned hate protest as soon as she found out about it from a community member.
“We were really blown away with how the community just showed up to be ready to support in any way they wanted to and in any capacity,” she said.
“We’re not immune to white supremacy and bigotry, racism and homophobia in the Northwest,” Rivera said. “It means that love wins all the fucking time.”
After learning about the counterprotest organized by Rivera and others, the far-right agitators decided to cancel their demonstration. The protest and drag storytime event ended up being a relatively uneventful and joyful affair, with the exception of a few far-right media personalities who got into arguments with antifascist activists.
One highlight of the protest was the participation of the Burn Out Brass Band, a queer antifascist group, which played iconic queer tunes such as “Montero” by Lil Nas X. Holly Blue, a member of the band, said that she reached out to the organizers to bring more joy to the protest.
“The whole point of this event is to drown out hate with joy, and that’s kind of our MO — that’s what we do,” Blue said. “We’re very loud and we have a lot of fun.”
Deaunte Damper, an organizer with VOCAL Washington and host at Converge Media, said that he was motivated to help organize the protest to support queer youth.
“It moves me because I once was that one queer boy,” Damper said. “My family didn’t have the tools to see me in my queerness … If there’s one queer kid that is probably gonna see this on the news and know that we’re standing with him, that’s what moves me, gives me so much heart and hope.”
Read more of the Dec. 21-27, 2022 issue.