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Dozens of competing protesters, some allegedly armed, demonstrated outside a drag show in Texas last night against and in support of a Christmas-themed drag show.
The groups met outside the Aztec Theatre in downtown San Antonio where a performance of the traveling show "A Drag Queen Christmas hosted by Nina West" was taking place.
No arrests or acts of violence were reported.
One of the groups, This is Texas Freedom Force (TITFF), was previously described by the FBI as a "militia extremist group" in court filings, a claim the group denies. One of its members, Guy Wesley Reffitt, is awaiting trial for his role in the January 6 Capitol insurrection in Washington, D.C.
TITFF said their objection was not about the LGBTQ+ community, but that the drag show could be attended by children.
"Since we are dealing with people's rights, we are not going against LGBTQ," Ramon Garza, the group's vice president, told local CBS affiliate KENS. "We are saying that we do not like that these shows are not age-restricted, and that's a primary reason we are here."
\u201cDemonstrators supporting and opposing the Christmas drag show at the Aztec Theater in San Antonio have begun arriving.\n\nBoth sides are armed.\n\nThe far right group claims the show is grooming children. Counter protesters are here supporting LGBTQ rights and anti-fascism. @TPRNews\u201d— Joey Palacios - Texas Public Radio (@Joey Palacios - Texas Public Radio) 1670977252
Benjamin Clodfelter, a member of Veterans for Equality, demonstrated in support of the drag show and the LGBTQ+ community, and he came armed with a rifle. He said he wanted to send a message to groups like TITFF.
"I know that they use guns to try to intimidate people on the left, and they can't do that if we're also armed," Clodfelter told Texas Public Radio. "I'm not here to try to shoot anybody or anything like that but if they want to try to intimidate, well, we can stand up to it, and to me, this is an expression of that."
Video of the protests showed a noisy but relatively peaceful gathering. On one side of the street, an unidentified man can be seen proselytizing to the masses.
"There are two sexes, male and female. God created you that way and we want you to return to the natural order," the man said using a microphone and loudspeaker. "We want to restore the family, we want to restore the country, and we are sick of the sin and perversion that is going on out there."
His words were met with calls for transgender rights from a group across the street.
"What do we want?" asked the group's leader.
"Trans rights," the crowd responded.
"When do we want it?" the leader continued.
"Now," the crowd answered.
Despite the potential for violence, the show went off successfully. Police kept the two sides apart and the entrance to the theatre free of protestors. The show ended at 10:30 p.m., and the demonstrations ended not long after that.
"A Drag Queen Christmas" is in the middle of its 2022 holiday road trip which started last month in Detroit and will finish its tour in south Florida later this month. Tickets are still available for its next stop tonight in Austin. You can learn more about "A Drag Queen Christmas" at its website (www.dragfans.com)