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Libraries in Canada hit by wave of hate, threats, as right-wing groups protest all-age drag events | CBC News

Saint John drag king has no plans to stop hosting events for kids, despite online hate | CBC News

Family-friendly drag events across Canada, many hosted by municipal libraries, have been targeted by a deluge of hateful comments and threats during Pride month, prompting multiple police investigations and renewed concerns about the safety of the LGBTQ community.

More than half a dozen libraries and drag performers, from Saint John to Victoria, reported being inundated online and over the phone by homophobic slurs and, in some cases, threats of violence.

Drag Story Hour events are popular at many libraries in the country, and usually feature a performer in drag reading children’s books about inclusion. They are often held in collaboration with local LGBTQ associations and have caused only minor controversy in the past. 

But amid a surge in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and policies in the U.S., and a conservative movement in Canada increasingly influenced by right-wing politics south of the border, the all-ages drag events have turned into flashpoints of anger.

The City of Dorval, a Montreal suburb, received a wave of complaints in early June as soon as it announced its library was hosting a story hour with well-known local performer Barbada.

“We received hate mail. We received threats. You name it — we received it,” said Sébastien Gauthier, a spokesperson for the city.

Drag performers Jessika Rabid, left, and Farrah Nuff, right, were among two dozen supporters who turned up to protect an all-ages drag storytelling in Calgary last week. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

In the comments, library staff were, among other things, accused of assisting pedophiles and threatened with lawsuits. Their personal information was also circulated online.

“We also received more worrisome threats for the activity per se, people threatening to come by and do this and that during the event,” Gauthier said.

Montreal police patrolled the June 11 event, which was without incident, and have opened an investigation into the threats. 

“I’ve worked for the city for almost 20 years. I’ve never seen anything like this,” Gauthier said. 

An all-ages drag show in Victoria was cancelled mid-June after the cafe that was scheduled to host received a slew of threatening phone calls.

“Our show has been running for the last three years with absolutely zero complaints or concern from anyone in the community,” said a spokesperson for For the Love of Drag, the group that was slated to perform.

The spokesperson asked CBC News to withhold their name because of ongoing safety concerns.

The online hate directed at libraries in Canada comes amid a surge in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and polices in the U.S. Earlier this month, police in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, arrested 31 men for conspiracy to riot at a Pride event. (North Country Off Grid/Youtube/Reuters)

“It’s frightening to be reminded that there are people out there that wish you didn’t exist, that wish they could harm you — especially during Pride month,” the spokesperson said in an email exchange.

A police investigation did not treat the incident as a hate crime and no charges were laid but a restraining order was issued against one person, the spokesperson said.

Libraries in Pembroke, Ont., Pickering Ont., Orillia, Ont., and Calgary also confirmed receiving a large volume of negative comments for hosting their own Drag Story Hour events this month. 

Ontario Provincial Police said they have an active investigation related to the Pembroke event, but declined to provide further details.

Convoy-linked groups

The surge of hate appears to have diverse sources. In Saint John, for instance, past and aspiring candidates with the People’s Party of Canada were among those who circulated misleading images on their social media accounts to suggest a story hour event at a local library earlier this month wasn’t age appropriate. 

One image was from a 2019 burlesque show in the U.S., the other was from an adult drag performance in April.

The posts spurred a long string of hateful comments against the performer, Alex Saunders, whose drag persona is Justin Toodeep. 

“We read a couple of books about a prince and knight who fell in love and then a couple of books on different types of families you might see,” Saunders said of the all-ages June event.

In several instances, groups and social media accounts affiliated with the Freedom Convoy encouraged supporters to protest the Drag Story Hour events. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Saunders says they sent more than 40 pages worth of screen grabs of the comments to Saint John police, including one that said it was time to “light the torches,” and another that called for Saunders and a fellow performer to be burned alive.

Saunders says they were told that there was insufficient evidence of a direct threat to pursue charges. 

“[It has been] very scary and weird and I really have been trying to put on a brave face for my community, but I had a full-blown, crying, didn’t-want-to-leave-the-house meltdown,” Saunders said.

Alex Saunders, also known as Justin Toodeep, helps host a drag storytime with the Saint John Free Public Library on June 5. (Supplied by Alex Saunders)

The public library in Pickering said it received a wave of homophobic and transphobic comments, both via phone and online, following an article and video report by True North, a right-wing media outlet founded by former Conservative MP Candice Malcolm.

On True North’s Facebook page, posts about the event received more than a dozen homophobic comments, many accusing drag performers of pedophilia, a long-running trope in anti-LGTBQ rhetoric. 

In several instances, groups and social media accounts affiliated with the Freedom Convoy encouraged supporters to protest the Drag Story Hour events.

Stand4Thee, an anti-vax mandate group that supported the blockade in Ottawa, has issued several calls in the past month for members to contact libraries hosting drag events.

In posts on Telegram, a social messaging app, the group says the events “indoctrinate our children” and are “disgusting perverted filth.” Their posts were shared on the Convoy to Ottawa 2022 channel, one of the largest groups on the app used by convoy supporters. 

Members of Calgary Freedom Central — a Telegram channel with nearly 9,000 subscribers that helped rally support for truck blockades in Ottawa and Coutts, Alta., this winter — used slurs as they tried to mobilize opposition to an event last week at a branch of the Calgary Public Library.

Members suggested a physical confrontation to show performers they were “not welcome” in Calgary. Another user suggested confronting parents who brought their children to the event.

As in many of the other online forums, the comments in Calgary Freedom Central often invoked the term “groomer” to describe the drag performers or the library staff hosting the events.

The slur, which is derived from the baseless stereotype that LGBTQ people are involved in pedophilia, is increasingly popular among right-wing groups in the U.S., where several drag story hour events have been disrupted by protests this month.

When Calgary’s LGTBQ community learned of the negative online chatter, about 25 members of the community and their supporters turned up at last week’s story hour event to prevent disruptions.

“I want to make sure the children and performers are the most protected they can be,” said Farrah Nuff, a drag performer who attended the event at the Nicholls Family Library.

Despite being subjected to threats, officials at municipal libraries hosting such events insist on their importance and maintain they won’t be intimidated.

Bessie Sullivan, CEO of the Orillia Public Library, said she never contemplated cancelling the event, even though callers were, among other things, threatening to get her fired.

“They pissed me off,” Sullivan said. “So actually, what we did, as this ratcheted up, I added a second story time.”

Library staff in Pembroke say they fielded a slew of threatening calls and emails, some promising that dozens of protesters would disrupt their drag story hour event.

Karthi Rajamani, the library’s CEO, was sufficiently concerned that she contacted police and gave her staff additional safety training. But, like Sullivan, she never considered cancelling the event.

“Libraries are community leaders. We should be examples of inclusion and diversity,” Rajamani said. 

In the end no one showed up to protest in Pembroke. The event was well attended and, Rajamani said, residents applauded the library for going ahead with it. Several other librarians expressed similar sentiments.

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Pride events targeted in surge of anti-LGBTQ threats, violence

Pride events targeted in surge of anti-LGBTQ threats, violence
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The surge in right-wing hate-mongering against LGBTQ people is spilling into violence, with high-profile attacks this month casting fear over Pride celebrations throughout the country.

Extremism researchers have long warned of an escalating risk as hard-right Republicans and militant groups portray LGBTQ people as “groomers” targeting children, along with other baseless smears. Now, provocateurs are acting on those messages in what President Biden last month called “rising hate and violence” targeting LGBTQ communities.

The attacks have intensified this month during the first big Pride events since pandemic restrictions were lifted, most notably with the white nationalist Patriot Front’s foiled attempt to disrupt a celebration in northern Idaho.

In recent days, right-wing politicians and preachers have openly called for killing LGBTQ people. On a conservative talk show, Mark Burns, a Donald Trump-allied congressional candidate from South Carolina, called “LGBT, transgender grooming” a national security threat and proposed using treason laws as the basis for “executing” parents and teaches who advocate for LGBTQ rights. In Texas last Sunday, a pastor railed against Pride month and said LGBTQ people “should be lined up against the wall and shot in the back of the head.”

A study released Thursday signals these are not isolated incidents. Anti-LGBTQ activity including demonstrations and attacks increased more than four times from 2020 to 2021, from 15 incidents to 61, according to the global nonprofit conflict-monitoring group known as ACLED. As of early June, ACLED counted 33 anti-LGBTQ incidents so far this year, indicating an even bleaker 2022.

The resulting fear is a common theme in social media posts by LGBTQ people describing palpable changes in their collective sense of security. Hateful looks. Ugly slurs. Vandalized rainbow flags.

Baltimore authorities this week are investigating two separate fires on the same block — one at a house where a Pride flag was set on fire, and another across the street at a home decorated for Pride, according to local news reports. Three people were injured in one of the fires.

A generation of LGBTQ advocates hopes the clock isn’t ticking backward

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 media outlets have mainstreamed 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 saw record violence against transgender and gender-nonconforming people. Women of color, especially Black trans women, were the most frequent targets.

In that same time frame, state legislators introduced more than 250 anti-LGBTQ bills, many of them designed to stop transgender youths from participating in sports. At least 24 of the bills were enacted, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, giving anti-LGBTQ activism “one of its most successful years” in terms of legislation.

The LGBTQ media advocacy group GLAAD said that political hate speech was leading to violence in a statement issued after the arrests in Idaho. The group said “anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and the nearly 250 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced this year are responsible for this dangerous climate,” along with tech platforms that are “fueling the hate and misinformation that inspire white supremacist groups like the Patriot Front.”

Targets have said the attacks are unnerving even when they don’t involve physical violence.

In San Lorenzo, Calif., on Saturday, a group of suspected Proud Boys, a far-right group with a history of violence, interrupted a drag queen storytelling hour by screaming anti-LGBTQ slurs in an incident authorities are investigating as a hate crime. In an interview with Teen Vogue, event host 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, calling me a pedophile and a groomer,” Chu said in the interview, adding that she was taken to a safe room as organizers called authorities. Chu summed up the incident as “terrifying.”

In Arlington, Tex., Proud Boys were among the protesters who showed up to a drag brunch that was for an over-21 crowd. Amateur video of the incident shared online by LGBTQ activists showed protesters screaming anti-gay slurs in their targets’ faces. One man was filmed acknowledging that he was blocking the brunch participants’ entry, saying he was conducting a “citizen’s arrest.”

Extremism monitors at the Anti-Defamation League tracked seven in-person extremist activities targeting LGBTQ people over the past weekend, according to an ADL summary of the recent threats. The summary included a June 12 Pride event in Georgia that was canceled because of anonymous threats “targeting the rally’s location, time and date.” In a separate incident the next day, according to the ADL, white supremacists in New Jersey protested a drag event during a Pride celebration, “with one individual displaying a sign reading, ‘Hands off kids.’”

The intimidation also has led to 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 town officials had received complaints and that the festival’s chairman was warned that he and his family “will be harmed” if the event took place.

Outraged, an advocacy group called Equality North Carolina stepped in to sponsor Apex Pride and reinstate the story hour. The group said in a statement that LGBTQ people would fight attempts “to invade our spaces, to silence us, to disperse us, and limit our freedom to be ourselves in our community.”

Several of the incidents illustrate what the ACLED report called “cross-pollination opportunities,” the coalescing of disparate right-wing factions around common targets such as critical race theory, pandemic-era lockdowns and abortion access. These days, anti-LGBTQ activism has jumped to the top of that list.

How World War II Led to Washington’s First Outing

The report noted that a June 4 demonstration against a drag show in Dallas brought together “self-proclaimed ‘Christian Fascists,’ adherents to the QAnon conspiracy movement” and several other extremist factions.

“They’re actually building solidarity and the left is not,” said Eric Stanley, an associate professor of gender and women’s studies at University of California at Berkeley.

For Stanley, also a community organizer, the issue is personal. Menacing emails arrive every week. Stanley is always on the lookout for unfamiliar faces among students, wondering “who’s going to film you, who’s going to storm the classroom, who’s going to attack you.”

“In the last few years, I definitely think about, ‘Where are the exits? Is it too high to jump out of this window?’ ” said Stanley, who teaches trans studies classes.

Still, Stanley doesn’t want the current danger “used as justification to hire more police, put more police at Pride, put more police in schools.”

Whether — or to what extent — to work with law enforcement agencies is a contested topic as LGBTQ advocates figure out how to respond. Stanley belongs to the camp that rejects partnering with police because of law enforcement’s longtime patterns of discrimination and violence.

Other organizations have close ties to law enforcement officials, but acknowledge the frictions.

“With everything that’s happened in the Black Lives Matter movement and the distrust of police, it’s this really hard, fine line to navigate,” said Jeff Mack, executive vice president of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, a LGBTQ nonprofit group that supports victims of hate crimes.

Those who favor working with police were encouraged that Idaho authorities arrested dozens of masked members of the white nationalist group Patriot Front before they could disrupt a Pride event Saturday in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The city’s police chief said the group, piled into the back of a U-Haul, had an “operations plan” for Pride and gear such as shin guards, shields, helmets, at least one smoke grenade and long metal poles.

The 31 men charged with misdemeanor conspiracy to riot came from at least 11 states, including Colorado, a point that was noted on a Denver Pride planning call Monday, two days after the Idaho incident.

Mack said he and other Hate Free Colorado organizers were in “disbelief” and couldn’t help but wonder what they might face in Denver later this month. Still, there was no question of scaling back.

“We are not going to let them win and we are going to take every precaution to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Mack said. “We all acknowledge that we just need to be hypervigilant and hyperaware, but we’re not going to let them take away our celebration of who we are.”

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Family-friendly drag show in Victoria cancelled after violent threats | CBC News

Family-friendly drag show in Victoria cancelled after violent threats | CBC News

Organizers of a family-friendly drag show at a Victoria café have cancelled the event after the café owner says staff were inundated with homophobic and transphobic phone calls.

The monthly Sashay Café drag show was scheduled to go ahead this Saturday at Caffe Fantastico. 

Café owner Ryan Taylor said staff received many hateful calls, but one call on Tuesday turned especially aggressive when the caller threatened to “shoot up the place and everyone in it.”

After that call, Sashay Café organizers decided to cancel the event and the incident was reported to Victoria police. 

Taylor said staff had been logging calls, which he said expressed homophobic sentiments and mischaracterized the event as “trying to groom children to be gay.” 

“Our team was doing its best to try and sort of counter that ignorance and explain that this is a simple dress-up show,” said Taylor. “It’s not by any means lewd or anything but positive.”

He says the threats to his café came from far-right extremists and are reflected by similar scares to pride events in the United States. A 17-year-old Canadian was arrested and charged for threats to commit a mass shooting at a pride event in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Taylor said two of the phone calls logged by staff came from local numbers. 

Victoria police said in a statement they are investigating two separate reports. 

“It is very disappointing to learn of these deeply concerning calls and the impact that they have had on staff, event organizers and those who were looking forward to this event,” said Staff Sgt. Jennifer Ames.

Police say they are keeping café staff and organizers updated and supported.

Taylor says the Sashay Café event, which features performers doing musical numbers in drag, encourages participants to express themselves.

“It’s for people who are looking for an avenue for expression and a safe place,” he said.

Taylor said rising homophobic and transphobic sentiments are a particularly tough blow as people are emerging from a pandemic. 

“To be trying to finally feel like you’re coming out the other side and trying to have some sense of normalcy, an attack like this is really kicking you when you’re down,” he said. 

“It just brings me to tears.” 

While Taylor understands why the event’s organizers would not want to be in the limelight at this time, he hopes for more pride events to lift people’s spirits. 

“To show these perpetrators of hate that it’s not acceptable. They’re not going to win,” he said. 

“They need to be condemned at every single step along the way, and they need to know their attitudes are not tolerable and that they cannot be part of our society.”

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Teen arrested in Ontario after mass shooting threats made toward Florida LGBTQ event: police | CBC News

Teen arrested in Ontario after mass shooting threats made toward Florida LGBTQ event: police | CBC News

A teen has been arrested in Mississauga, Ont. after allegedly making online threats to commit a mass shooting at an LGBTQ pride event in West Palm Beach, Fla., authorities say.

The West Palm Beach Police Department said in a news release that a 17-year-old boy was arrested on Monday morning and charged with threats to commit a mass shooting. Additional charges are pending, they say, including: written or electronic threats to kill, do bodily injury, or conduct a mass shooting or an act of terrorism.

The Miami Police Department received a report on Sunday of a threat made against the Pride on the Block 2022 event in West Palm Beach on the video chat platform Omegle, local police said.

Police say in the video, the teen was waving a gun, making anti-LGBTQ comments, and said he would be carrying out a mass shooting that day at the event. The teen also claimed to live in Palm Beach County, West Palm Beach police say.

Local police released images from the alleged video Sunday, in which the accused appears to be holding a gun. 

Rick Morris, deputy chief of West Palm Beach Police, told CBC News in an interview that it was a user on the chat platform who first flagged the possibility of danger to police.

“This was a perfect example of see something, say something,” Morris said.

Miami police then notified West Palm Beach police, who launched an investigation. 

The boy, who cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was arrested Monday as a result of a joint international investigation between the New York Police Department, Toronto Police Service, Peel Regional Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

No current public safety threat, police say

Morris said the accused in the case was arrested in Mississauga around 2 a.m. Monday. He said U.S. authorities plan to extradite the teen to face charges stateside, but it could take some time for that to happen.

Morris could not specify exactly how authorities traced the teen back to Canada, but he lauded police in both Toronto and Peel for their swift work on the case.

In a statement, Omegle said it “takes threats made on the platform very seriously,” adding that it helped law enforcement by providing information related to the user associated with the alleged threats.

Toronto police referred a CBC News request for more information to Peel police, saying Peel was “involved in the arrest.”

Peel police offered few other details, except to say that the “matter has been investigated and addressed, and there is no current concern of any public safety threat.”

Investigators have recovered both the video and the gun seen in it, West Palm Beach police said in its news release.

Event organizer Donna Weinberger told CBC News in an interview that police assured them the event would be safe — with a host of uniformed and non-uniformed officers in the crowd looking out for trouble.

“Their recommendation was to keep it going,” Weinberger said.

Debated cancelling event

Morris said police weighed the possibility of cancelling the event, but in the end, decided against it.

“”Even though the threat was taken very, very seriously, and [was] very credible, these threats come in — and at what point does law enforcement start disrupting everybody’s normal life over [threats]?” he said.

Julia Murphy, chief development officer for Compass Community Centre, which was a sponsor and community partner for the event, said she was “devastated” when she first found out about the threat.

“There’s a lot of fear — for your friends, your family, you want to feel safe. All of us do,” she said.

“To know that just for existing that somebody wants you to be dead, I don’t even know if anyone can process what the feeling is like. It’s devastating — and you’re talking about an entire community of people that just want to spread love and happiness and be their authentic selves.”

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No known threats targeting Super Bowl events in Los Angeles area this weekend, authorities say

No known threats targeting Super Bowl events in Los Angeles area this weekend, authorities say

LOS ANGELES (AP) — There are no known security threats to the Super Bowl, authorities said Tuesday as they outlined the coordinated law-enforcement effort to keep the game at SoFi Stadium and the Los Angeles region safe.

Fans attending the game can expect an enormous police presence at the stadium, which will have a tightly monitored security perimeter. Meanwhile patrol officers, tactical teams, K-9 units and paramedics will be been deployed across Los Angeles County in the run-up to the NFL championship game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said at least 500 members of his department are devoted to safety for the big game, including agents focused on ferreting out cyberthreats and preventing human trafficking.

“We have no information of a specific, credible threat against the Super Bowl,” said Mayorkas. “What this is all about is planning and preparation to prevent any incident from occurring.”

Mayorkas’s department, however, warned that a truck convoy on the order of those clogging central Ottawa, Ontario, and disrupting U.S.-Canadian commerce at a bridge near Detroit could emerge and create problems near the Super Bowl site.

Don’t miss: Homeland Security Department voices concern about Super Bowl and State of the Union disruptions by Canada-style truck convoy

Air Force fighter jets will enforce a temporary flight-restricted zone on Sunday in collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration, the FBI and other agencies. NORAD earlier in the week scheduled a defense exercise for the airspace over the Inglewood area.

The city police department in Inglewood, where the stadium is located, is the lead local law-enforcement effort. It will coordinate with the Los Angeles Police Department and the sheriff’s department. About 400 deputies were dedicated to the Super Bowl, including extra patrols for the county’s transit system, said Jack Ewell, chief of the sheriff’s Special Operations Division.

Inglewood Police Chief Mark Fronterotta said his officers will focus on preventing fights between fans, after a San Francisco 49ers fan suffered a brain injury during an altercation outside SoFi during the NFC championship game last month. “The parking lots will be extensively covered,” Fronterotta said.

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said there has been no disorderly behavior at pre–Super Bowl activities at the downtown L.A. Convention Center. The LAPD has canceled some scheduled time off to ensure the department has enough staff for all the week’s events, including a possible victory parade for the Rams, Moore said.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addresses the media on Wednesday on the SoFi Stadium campus in Inglewood, Calif.

Rob Carr/Getty Images

Only small, clear bags will be allowed inside the stadium on game day, though fans are encouraged to bring as little as possible with them.

“If you want to breeze through security, less is more. The less you bring, the faster you go through security,” said Cathy Lanier, the NFL’s chief security officer.

Security measures extend to the skies, too. The North American Aerospace Defense Command, known as NORAD, planned a defense exercise on Tuesday for the airspace over greater Inglewood. On Sunday, U.S. Air Force fighter jets will enforce the temporary flight-restricted zone in collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration, the FBI and other agencies.

The FAA warned that drone operators who fly unmanned aircraft into the restricted area could face large fines and potential criminal prosecution.

MarketWatch contributed.

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Ten Years Hence Lecture: Space Threats and National Security // Department of Political Science // University of Notre Dame

Ten Years Hence Lecture: Space Threats and National Security // Department of Political Science // University of Notre Dame

Space Threats and National Security is presented by Lt. General William Liquori, Deputy Chief of Space Operations, Strategy, Plans, Programs, Requirements, and Analysis, United States Space Force. As the Chief Strategy and Resourcing Officer, Lt Gen Liquori has overall responsibility for the strategies, requirements, and budget of the United States Space Force.

This lecture is via Zoom only. Please register in advance to receive the Zoom link.

Free and open to students, faculty, staff and the Notre Dame community. Registration is required in advance to receive the Zoom link.

This is the third of seven lectures in the Ten Years Hence speaker series that will explore Life Beyond Earth. For a listing of all the lectures, visit the Ten Years Hence website.

Ten Years Hence is sponsored by the O’Brien-Smith Leadership Program.