They use barricades, metal detectors, bomb-sniffing dogs, background checks by event organizers, and still scorch marks Authorities called it an attempt by neo-Nazis to “burn down an entire church.”
But on Saturday, April 1, more than 100 Northeast residents Ohio We gathered inside the Chesterland Community Church to hear a group of drag queens read stories to children. “It was amazing,” said Jess Peacock, pastor of the church.
Saturday’s event was the first Drag Queen Story Hour held by the church. Last year, the same church hosted its first local LGBTQ+ Pride event in a community.
Peacock said he expected some backlash when he started promoting the event, including “hate mail, hate voicemail, hate social media,” but the response to Story Hour was far above normal. I was.
“The messages we started getting were much more vitriolic in terms of accusations of pedophilia, grooming, and horrible things being done to children,” they said. It felt different, and when someone tried to burn our church down, it went to a whole other level.”
On March 25, a week before the scheduled story hour, Peacock was alerted to the damage at the church. They found burn marks on the building and a broken bottle on the ground, remnants of a molotov bomb attack.
The arson attempt comes amid an escalating campaign against LGBTQ+ rights in the United States. street level intimidation Through holding drag and other LGBTQ+-themed events, as well as through state-level legislative attacks, 400 sheets or more Intended to limit LGBTQ+ rights introduced in 2023.
On Friday, March 31, federal officials Arrest/Prosecution A member of a neo-Nazi group with two counts linked to the attempted arson at Chesterland Church.
Amen Penney, 20, told investigators he made a Molotov cocktail and used it in a church. Affidavit of claim“Penny stated that a Molotov cocktail would have been more effective and that she would have felt better if she had burned down an entire church.”
According to the complaint, Penny is a member of the group White Lives Matter, Ohio, which has “racist, pro-Nazi and homophobic views.” He had previously protested another drag his Queen story hour “in military uniform”, distributing racist and white supremacist leaflets in his hometown of Alliance, Ohio. Law enforcement found a “handwritten manifesto containing ideological statements” and Nazi memorabilia at his residence.
He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of exploiting explosives.
The arson incident caused great unrest in the Peacocks and their congregation, but it also strengthened their resolve.
“We didn’t want to be crusader for this, but when it became clear that we needed to, we shifted gears,” they said.
Event security was coordinated by Mallory McMaster, who runs the local Social Justice Event Planning business. McMaster said her security bills were about $20,000 and were tougher than when she worked for an abortion service.
“This was the most complex and multi-layered security process we have ever had to do for any event, let alone an event that didn’t require security six months ago,” said McMaster. increase.
“The rhetoric is very inflammatory and the language is becoming more and more erratic,” she said. “This is what we tried to tell people before [abortion provider] Doctor [George] Tiller was assassinated…it’s escalating. ”
She added: “I hope this will be a blueprint for other organizations and cities. I have to stand up.”
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/apr/03/drag-queen-story-hour-chesterland-community-church Drag Queen Story Hour Continues Despite Neo-Nazis Trying to Burn Down Churches | Ohio