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Several men suspected to be members of far-right organization the Proud Boys disrupted an event at a library in San Francisco, using profane language to allegedly threaten drag queen performers. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon, AFP, Getty Images)

LGBTQ Events Targeted by Extremist Groups

This weekend multiple incidents pointed to rising hostility from right-wing extremists toward the LGBTQ community. June is commonly designated Pride Month in the United States, with many events and celebrations commemorating LGBTQ rights while honoring past struggles.

At least two events over the weekend were targeted. A library in Alameda County, California, outside San Francisco was hosting a Drag Queen Story Hour, where performers were reading children’s books. Several men suspected to be members of the Proud Boys right-wing organization disrupted the event, using profane language to allegedly threaten and intimidate the performers.

According to a report in SFGATE, “the men were ‘described as extremely aggressive with a threatening violent demeanor causing people to fear for their safety,’ the sheriff's office said. … The sheriff's office said an ‘active hate crime investigation is underway, as is an investigation into the annoying and harassing of children.’”

A drag performer known as Panda Dulce was leading the event. According to SFGATE, similar drag-related story hours have been presented at public libraries in the Bay Area since at least 2015. “While the events quickly garnered positive feedback and are intended to encourage open-minded discussion of gender identity among children and their parents,” the site reported, “they’ve been frequently targeted for harassment by anti-LGBTQ, far-right extremists, who have attempted to dox the participants and attendees.”

The event was one of many pride events listed by the anti-LBGTQ social media account Libs of TikTok, which has garnered millions of followers and been featured on conservative media outlets. Another event highlighted by the Libs of TikTok was a Pride in the Park event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Authorities arrested 31 members of the white nationalist group Patriot Front for suspicion of conspiring to riot in protest at the event.

Two of the 31 men arrested were from Idaho, with citizens of several other U.S. states as far away as Virginia among those who police apprehended. Among them is Thomas Ryan Rousseau, who the Southern Poverty Law Center says is the founder of the Patriot Front.

Police received a tip that a group of men that looked like “a little army” were filing into a U-Haul truck in a hotel parking lot. Police were able to intercept the group before they could disrupt the pride event, and reported they found several of them carrying shields and wearing shin guards. They carried one smoke grenade, though police did not mention any other offensive weapons.

Police also found a multi-page planning document: “After pulling up a digital image of the document, [Coeur d’Alene Police] Chief [Lee] White read brief selections to The New York Times that detailed how smoke was to be used: ‘a column forming on the outside of the park, proceeding inward, until barriers to approach are met’ and ‘once an appropriate amount of confrontational dynamic has been established, the column will disengage and head to Sherman.’” Sherman references a street name that cuts through the park where the event was taking place. All 31 men arrested had posted bail on the misdemeanor charges by the end of Monday.

Police involved in the incident are receiving anonymous death threats and social media calls to dox anyone investigating the incident, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The incidents mark the continued escalation of anti-LGBTQ sentiment among conservatives in the United States. “A toxic brew of hateful rhetoric has been percolating in Idaho and elsewhere around the U.S., well ahead of the arrests of the Patriot Front members at the pride event Saturday in Coeur d’Alene,” stated an Associated Press article on the escalation. The article noted that in another part of the state of Idaho, Representative Heather Scott (R-ID) “told an audience that drag queens and other LGBTQ supporters are waging ‘a war of perversion against our children.’”

A New York Times article from April 2022 documented the many laws that Republican-controlled states have passed that put restrictions on LGBTQ issues, including the Florida law restricting the teaching of sexual orientation issues in early elementary schools.

An article in The Hill noted a specific shift in rhetoric. Thirty years ago, conservatives rallied against same-sex marriage, the article said. Now that same-sex marriage is overwhelming supported by the public, The Hill reported that much of the rhetoric and laws being proposed and passed from the right target the transgender community.

“Many of the threads connecting fear of and violence against transgender people rehash common slurs once used against gays and lesbians,” the article said. “The pastors who called for executions repeated disproven tropes about pedophilia. The Proud Boys who broke up the book reading accused the drag queen, Panda Dulce, of grooming children. A conservative agitator affiliated with the group Turning Point USA published videos accusing parents who attended the Pride parade in Los Angeles of grooming their own children.”

Overall, support for gay and lesbian rights continues to climb. Earlier this year, Gallup noted a new apex in support for same-sex marriage in the United States, reaching 71 percent. In 1996, only 27 percent supported same-sex marriage, and support tipped over the 50 percent mark in 2011.

Out with a new study, Gallup reported that attitudes toward gay and lesbian rights appear to continue to be moderating worldwide: “Half of the world's adults (50 percent) now say their city or area is a ‘good place’ for gay or lesbian people to live—a figure that has doubled over the past decade and represents a new high in Gallup World Poll's trend dating back to 2005.”

Scandinavian countries Norway and Sweden, as well as Netherlands, top the 90 percent mark in terms of people saying they are good places for gay or lesbian people to live. However, in some nations, notably Nicaragua and Paraguay, the trend is going in the other direction.