Attacks have intensified this month during the first major Pride events since pandemic restrictions were lifted, particularly with the white nationalist Patriot Front’s thwarted attempt 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 South Carolina congressional candidate allied with Donald Trump, called “LGBT, transgender grooming” a national security threat and suggested using anti-treason laws as a basis for “executing” parents and teachers, who stand up for LGBTQ rights. In Texas last Sunday, a pastor railed against Pride Month, saying LGBTQ people should be “put against the wall and shot in the back of the head.”
A Study published on Thursday indicates that these are not isolated cases. Anti-LGBTQ activity, including demonstrations and attacks, has more than quadrupled from 2020 to 2021, from 15 incidents to 61, according to the global nonprofit conflict monitoring group known as ACLED. As of June, ACLED counted 33 anti-LGBTQ incidents so far this year, portending for an even grimmer 2022.
The resulting fear is a common theme in social media posts by LGBTQ people describing noticeable changes in their collective sense of security. Hateful looks. Ugly insults. Vandalized rainbow flags.
Baltimore authorities are investigating two separate fires on 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 local news reports. Three people were injured in one of the fires.
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Analysts draw a direct link from hateful political speech to attacks on the ground. The ACLED report notes that the rise in violence comes as “right-wing politicians and the media have established 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 passed take up violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people. Women of color, especially black trans women, were the most common targets.
During the same period, state legislatures introduced more than 250 Anti-LGBTQ laws, many of which aim to bar transgender youth from participating in sports. At least 24 of the bills passed, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, giving anti-LGBTQ activism “one of its finest years” in terms of legislation.
LGBTQ media outlet GLAAD said political hate speech led to violence in an opinion issued after the arrests in Idaho. The group said that “anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and the nearly 250 anti-LGBTQ laws introduced this year are responsible for this dangerous climate,” along with technology platforms that are “fueling the hate and misinformation that… inspire white supremacist groups like the Patriot Front”.
Victims have said the attacks are troubling even if they don’t involve physical violence.
In San Lorenzo, Calif., a group of suspected Proud Boys, a far-right group with a history of violence, interrupted a drag queen storytelling lesson on Saturday by shouting anti-LGBTQ slurs in an incident authorities described as a hate crime investigate . In an interview with Teen Vogue, event director Kyle Chu, whose drag name is Panda Dulce, described up to 10 Proud Boys marching in, including one in a T-shirt emblazoned with a gun and the words “Kill your local pedophile.” .
“We stopped the song and the Proud Boys … started hurling insults and calling me a pedophile and a dog groomer,” Chu said the interview, adding that she was taken to a safe room when organizers called the authorities. Chu summed up the incident as “terrifying.”
In Arlington, Texas, Proud Boys were among the protesters who turned up for a drag brunch for over-21s. amateur video of the incident, shared online by LGBTQ activists, showed protesters shouting anti-gay slurs at their victims. A man was filmed admitting to barring entry to brunch-goers and saying he was conducting a “citizen arrest.”
Anti-Defamation League extremism monitors have been tracking seven personal extremist activities targeting LGBTQ people, according to a report released this past weekend ADL Summary of recent threats. The synopsis included a June 12 Pride event in Georgia that was canceled due to anonymous threats “aimed at the location, time and date of the rally.” In another incident the next day, white supremacists in New Jersey protested a drag event during a Pride celebration, according to the ADL, “where one person held a sign that said ‘hands off children.'”
Intimidation has also prompted moments of defiance, 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 News Reports said city officials had received complaints and that the festival’s chairman had been warned that he and his family “will be harmed” if the event goes ahead.
An interest group called indignantly Equality North Carolina stepped in to sponsor Apex Pride and reintroduce storytelling. The group said in a statement that LGBTQ people would fight attempts “to invade our spaces, silence us, disperse us and limit our freedom to be ourselves in our community.”
Several of the incidents illustrate what the ACLED report calls “opportunities for cross-fertilization,” the convergence of disparate right-wing factions around common goals such as critical race theory, lockdowns during the pandemic and access to abortion. Today, anti-LGBTQ activism has jumped to the top of that list.
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The report found that a Demonstration on June 4th against a Dallas drag show brought together “self-proclaimed ‘Christian fascists,’ supporters of the QAnon conspiracy movement” and several other extremist factions.
“You actually build solidarity and the left doesn’t,” he said EricStanleyAssociate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.
For Stanley, also a community organizer, the issue is personal. Threatening emails arrive every week. Stanley is always on the lookout for unfamiliar faces among the students and wonders “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 definitely been thinking, ‘Where are the exits? Is it too high to jump out of that window?’ ‘ said Stanley, who teaches trans studies courses.
Still, Stanley doesn’t want the current threat “to be used as justification for hiring more police, putting more police into Pride, putting more police into schools.”
Whether – or to what extent – to cooperate with law enforcement is a contentious issue as LGBTQ advocates figure out how to respond. Stanley is in the camp opposed to a partnership with the police force because of law enforcement’s long-standing patterns of discrimination and violence.
Other organizations have close ties to law enforcement officials but acknowledge the friction.
“With everything that’s happened in the Black Lives Matter movement and the mistrust of the police, it’s really a difficult line to navigate,” said Jeff Mack, executive vice president of the Matthew Shepard Foundationa non-profit LGBTQ group that supports victims of hate crimes.
Those who prefer to cooperate with police were encouraged that Idaho authorities arrested dozens of masked members of the white nationalist group Patriot Front before disrupting a Pride event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, on Saturday. The city’s police chief said the group, which was stacked in the back of a U-Haul, had a “plan of action” for Pride and gear including shin guards, shields, helmets, at least one smoke grenade and long metal poles.
The 31 men charged with misdemeanor and conspiracy to riot came from at least 11 states, including Colorado, a point made on a Denver Pride planning call Monday, two days after the Idaho incident.
Mack said he and others Hate free Colorado Organizers were “in disbelief” and couldn’t help but wonder what might be in store for them in Denver later this month. However, there was no talk of a reduction.
“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 acknowledge that we just need to be hyper vigilant and hyper aware, but we won’t let them rob us of our celebration of who we are.”