Tensions are high in Missouri as authorities investigate who called and threatened three LGBTQ+ bars with violence.
Between Saturday night and Sunday morning in St. Louis, PRISM STL, Just John, and Rehab all received disturbing calls from someone threatening to harm staff and patrons.
In addition to receiving threats, all three bars are located on Manchester Avenue in St. Louis, a trendy nightlife area known for drag shows, which state legislators introduced legislation about last week, seeking to outlaw the art form.
A staff member of Rehab told St. Louis NBC affiliate KSDK on Tuesday afternoon that they believed the culprit might be a bar patron who has been banned from the club. During the threatening call, the person identified themselves as “The Joker,” according to staff members, the station reports.
It sounded like at least two people were on the other line, another witness said, adding that the caller started talking about how they were the Joker and would blow up the bar, send bombs, and kill everyone by shooting the place up, Riverfront Timesreports.
Staff at each location expressed concern over invading local queer safe spaces. The owners of PRISM echoed the sentiment, telling the station they felt physically ill upon realizing the nature of the call.
The owners, Michael Klatske and Sean Abernathy, believe that the toxic anti-LGBTQ+ political climate in today’s America is responsible for the spate of threats against queer spaces.
“Some politicians in this state that are bigoted toward my community and are trying to create laws with no data behind them that create a sense of more hate toward my community,” Abernathy said.
While the threats are concerning, those who run local LGBTQ+ establishments say they will not be deterred or intimidated out of existence.
According to them, new security measures, including partnering with St. Louis police for support and visibility, are in place, and that police continue investigating the incidents from the weekend.
St. Louis CBS affiliate KMOV reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is also involved in the case.
Abernathy tried to put the calls into perspective.
“We’re getting threatened with not only hate crimes, but terroristic threats,” he said. “This is all coming at a community that’s just trying to exist. We’re not trying to hurt anybody. We just want to be able to exist and have a good time.”