A school in Columbus, Ohio, has canceled a drag queen Storytime event after gunmen intimidated organizers. During the event, a police officer greeted the protesters and prompted a mother to ask him why he was so warm to the group.
The protest was played semi-live over social media, including the video of the mother confronting the police officer.
Columbus Police Sergeant Steven Dyer, who greeted the men, was asked on camera why he greeted the Proud Boys and he said he did it “to build relationships”.
The woman who asked him the question replied by asking “with fascists?”
He insisted he wasn’t supporting their cause, but simply responded positively to them because one of them praised his mustache.
“I don’t support their cause, I’m not here to hang out with them. I’m here to support their right to protest,” Dyer said. “They were talking about my mustache, the guy said I had a good mustache. That’s all.”
The mother says she hopes “you’re telling me the truth,” to which Mr. Dyer gives her his name and business card.
The event, called “Holi-Drag Storytime,” was hosted by Red Oak Community School and was scheduled to take place off campus at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus over the weekend.
However, Ohio’s local branch of the Proud Boys, a violent right-wing gang, said it would attend and protest the event, according to the Associated Press.
Cheryl Ryan, the school’s manager, told the AP that they canceled the event after an internal debate over “how best to protect this community.”
According to Ms Ryan, a “community defense team” volunteered to protect the event but were not comfortable with the police presence requested by the artists.
“In the end, our cast members felt unsafe with no police presence, while our security team felt unsafe with police presence,” said Ms. Ryan. “So it turns out our biggest problem wasn’t the Proud Boys after all.”
The Proud Boys turned up, as did members of the Patriot Front, another far-right group, to protest the event. Between 50 and 70 people attended the protest, which included shouting and singing in front of the church.
The event was to include drag performers reading stories to children and singing Christmas carols, according to the school.
According to Ms Ryan, the school had sold “nearly 1,000 tickets” at $10 each and raised more than $5,000 for a local LGBTQ charity.