Over the weekend, as the nation remembered the 49 people whose lives were taken in the shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, an onslaught of alarming threats were made against the LGBTQ+ community, all by right-wing extremists.
On Saturday, as concurrent Pride events and March for Our Lives demonstrations took place across the country, police arrested 31 men near a Pride parade in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The men are reported to be members of Patriot Front, a white nationalist, neofascist hate group, whose manifesto touts ideology like: “An African, for example, may have lived, worked, and even been classed as a citizen in America for centuries, yet he is not American.”
The group was charged with one count of conspiracy to riot, after a concerned citizen witnessed them piling into a U-Haul truck holding shields and reported them to police.
“It is clear to us based on the gear that the individuals had with them, the stuff they had in their possession, the U-Haul with them along with paperwork that was seized from them, that they came to riot downtown,” Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White said during a press conference following the arrest. It’s not known if the “little army,” as the citizen reportedly called them, was in possession of any weaponry. But the local police department has reported that since Saturday, its received scores of death threats from “as far away as Norway.”
That same day in San Francisco, a Drag Queen Story Hour event for preschool-aged children was ambushed by a contingent of 8-10 men representing themselves as members of Proud Boys organization, yet another infamous far-right white nationalist group, who reportedly yelled homophobic and transphobic threats including “tranny” and “pedophile” at the event’s host, Panda Dulce.
“They got right in our faces. They jeered. They attempted to escalate to violence,” said Dulce, the Bay-Area drag queen wrote of the incident on Instagram, noting that the confrontation “totally freaked out all of the kids.”
Police escorted the men from the scene, and have said they’re investigating the incident as an “active hate crime.” Notably, a listing for the event had been posted last month by Libs of TikTok, an influential right-wing social media account, who’s shared the location of other events in the U.S. for children that feature drag performers.
Finally, in Arizona, Ethan Schmidt, a 24-year-old known for his right-wing radical posts on social media, showed up to a local March For Our Lives protest wielding an AR-15. Schmidt, a proud anti-mask advocate, was arrested on an unrelated charge after he failed to comply with a court order. What’s perhaps more disturbing however, is that just weeks earlier, Schmidt published a video promising to “hunt” LGBTQ+ shoppers in Target stores across the country.
“We’re going to make massive scenes in every single Target store across Phoenix, Arizona, and we’re not going to let corporate poison the children,” Schmidt threatened in the video, reposted by the group Patriot Takes. A spokesperson with Phoenix police said the department is aware of his activity on Telegram and looking into the threats in an ongoing investigation.
This recent spate of attacks comes as Republican politician ramp up their fear-mongering about transgender kids and “grooming.” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio inexplicably tweeted about kids going to drag shows,” with a completely random photo lacking any context or details like date or location.
Meanwhile, in addition to the physical threats, legislation designed to harm the LGBTQ+ community is advancing in an overwhelming number of states. According to the Human Rights Campaign, more than 320 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced as of last month, with many of them targeting the health and wellbeing of transgender children in addition to the teaching of queer history and existence in sexual education programs. In the wake of the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting, Republicans in the state are trying to ban kids from attending drag shows instead of doing anything about guns. And a recently-introduced bill in Ohio even goes so far as to forcibly “examine” the genitalia of children suspected of being transgender to approve participation in school athletics.
While the fight for LGBTQ+ rights has become increasingly conflated with the GOP’s varying culture wars in the last few years, these developing threats and attacks are anything but inconsequential. And it’s certainly no coincidence there’s a sudden influx of them during Pride month.