Threats flooded during Pride Month, LGBTQ+ advocates and allies forced to cancel events and engage local law enforcement after a group of white nationalists were arrested outside a Pride event in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho.
California Senator Scott Weiner said he was in a supermarket on Sunday when a staff member alerted him not to go home before calling the police. Weiner, who has been joking on Twitter about making “Drag Queen 101 part of the K-12 curriculum” in response to a tweet last week by a Texas State House representative declaring a bill seeking to ban drag shows in the presence of minors, received an email saying there was a bombshell. in his home.
The bomb-sniffing dogs had to vacate Wiener’s apartment before he could return.
“There is a very coordinated network of accounts and right-wing personalities to coordinate on which offensive message is present and who is to be targeted. And they have an army of social media trolls who amplify their messages,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s a very coordinated attack machine.”
The fear of a bomb directed at the state senator’s home was just one of several threats and intimidation tactics targeting LGBT activists in the past week, just a few hours later. High-profile arrests of 31 members of the white nationalist Patriot Front in Idaho on Saturday.
Threats are mostly aimed at shutting down transgender rights events and drag shows, which have become frequent targets for extremists, militias and far-right figures during the month of June, a Pride month. they come like More than 200 bills targeting LGBT people It was lifted across the US this year.
Influencers and far-right militias have focused especially in the past month on “Drag Queen Story Hour” events, which have been hosted in bookstores across the United States since 2015.
Discussion of such events rose on the Internet. References to the drag queen story hour on Twitter have increased 777% in the past month, according to data provided by social media intelligence firm Zignal Labs to NBC News.
“The level of disruption that has occurred in the past few weeks is new,” said Michael Hayden, a senior researcher at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights and legal advocacy organization.
He said the process of targeting specific LGBTQ events has become generalized and systematic in recent months by far-right influencers using megaphones on social media.
“The way this works is that they have to get their targets from somewhere,” Hayden said. “Things are already being aired by LibsOfTikTok and other major right-wing influencers at the moment. Then the extremists start planning for that.”
The person managing the LibsOfTikTok account did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Hayden said there were cases in 2018 in which white nationalist group Identity Evropa disrupted conversations by trans rights activists, taking hours into the story, but these events did not turn into a chain of actions by disparate extremist groups.
“There is a level of chaos with the goal, but the choice of goal comes from top to bottom,” Hayden said. Correspondence is tied to the far right machine.
This increase in online discussions is offset by an increasing number of incidents in the real world.
At about 1:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, hours before the Weiner home was threatened, members of the far-right group Proud Boys interrupted the Drag Queen Story clock at the San Lorenzo Library in Alameda County, California, shouting in advance of transphobic and homophobic insults. of children, according to local authorities.
“An active hate crime investigation is underway as is the investigation into child harassment and harassment,” Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Ray Kelly said in a news release.
Anti-LGBT rhetoric has exploded in many conservative and far-right Internet communities in recent months.
Wiener’s satirical post about the Drag Queen Story Hour was quickly assembled by far-right influencers, specifically the LibsOfTikTok account, which collects examples of juveniles, public school educators and others openly supporting LGBTQ causes on TikTok and other frequently cited platforms to date-influencers and outlets Occasion. LibsOfTikTok also published several times a condemnation of the Coeur D’Alene Pride in the run-up to the event.
The account specifically invoked a show called “Family Friendly Drag Ball” for the city’s mayor, saying, “We live in hell.”
The 31 men associated with the National Front were charged with criminal conspiracy after the event. A 911 caller described them to police as looking like a “little army” after seeing a group of masked men being loaded into an armored U-Haul truck.
Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White said after their arrest that he believed the caller was likely to prevent a more serious situation, as the group allegedly planned to incite riots at a nearby local Pride in the Park event.
White told reporters that he assumed the pride event had become a “flashing point” for anti-LGBT groups. Groups that participated in the January 6 riots such as “Proud Boys” and “Three Persons” also appeared at the rally, along with the Atomwafen, a neo-Nazi group.
Of those arrested, only two were Idaho residents. White also confirmed to reporters Monday that he saw documents in which the group allegedly planned to create a confrontation, including the use of smoke grenades, before retreating onto Sherman Street.
Hours after Coeur D’Alene’s arrests Saturday night, a transgender rights rally scheduled for Sunday in Atlanta’s Liberty Plaza was canceled when organizers said they had received a specific, targeted threat to an activist that included the date, time and location of the planned event.
Alex Ames, one of the organizers of the Georgia Youth Justice Coalition who planned the rally, said it was a “grotesque death threat” that prompted them to quickly cancel the event. She said the gathering was rescheduled to be a virtual event on Tuesday for safety attendees.
“We want to get these stories out anyway, without anyone having to make that hard choice,” she said, “Would I go out there without knowing how safe I would be?” “
Despite the wave of threats against LGBTQ+ events, Wiener said, “it’s very important this year for us to be outside” at events during Pride Month.
“Especially with all these threats across the country – now, more than ever, we need to be visible, upfront, and out there,” he said. “The last thing we have to do is get around the ball, because then they will win.”