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Drag Producer Cancels Shows After Armed Proud Boys Threaten Event

Drag Producer Cancels Shows After Armed Proud Boys Threaten Event

Drag queen Tara Lipsyncki and a member of the far-right Proud Boys

After right-wing extremists showed up with guns to terrify attendees of a family-friendly drag show, producers of the event say they won't have any more shows soon.

As more than three dozen people gathered at a local wine and tea shop in Salt Lake City, a handful of black-and-yellow-clad Proud Boys stood nearby, menacing patrons and hurling homophobic slurs. Now the producer of the Utah event says in the wake of real-world threats of violence, they will be pausing the shows to regroup.

Tea Zaanti was packed with adults and children singing and dancing along with drag queens during an all-ages, family-friendly show on Friday, while outside, a group of armed far-right protesters gathered.

It was the 13th time the all-ages event, Bes-TEAS, had been held in the last year and a half, but the first time that people had actually showed up to protest, host and drag performer Tara Lipsyncki tells The Advocate.

“This was the first show in a while that we didn’t have security,” explains Lipsyncki. “We started getting online threats from Libs of TikTok and other MAGA and Proud Boy sites in August about the show and us somehow grooming children. So from then onward, we had security.”

Lipsyncki says that until Friday, the threats were always contained online.

“The venue got review bombed, and they’re fighting that still, but [the owners] chose to stand by the show,” they explain. “So Friday was the first time people actually showed up and protested.”

The detractors identified themselves to the Salt Lake Tribune as members of the Salt Lake chapter of the Proud Boys.

Armed with at least one semi-automatic rifle and 9 mm handgun, the extremists called attendees “groomers.”

According to a demonstrator who spoke with the paper, the Proud Boys would not have come if children weren’t present.

“We’re not here to impede on people’s way of life,” he said. “You would never bring a kid to a strip club. Why would this be any different? Sexualized women dancing in front of boys — this is a man dressed as a woman dancing sexually in front of children.”

Lipsyncki scoffs at that notion.

“It’s not a nightclub show. We do Disney songs. We did ‘Be Our Guest’ [from the 1991 Disney film Beauty and the Beast] at the show,” they say.

Lipsyncki says the grown masked men stood outside the venue for more than three hours, the length of the event, yelling insults and threatening people who were just looking to enjoy themselves

“They told people walking into the venue with their kids to be ashamed of themselves and hurled other insults at them,” Lipsyncki says.

Lipsyncki says that Tea Zaanti’s owner called the police to complain about the threats outside the establishment, but that in their opinion, when the Salt Lake City police department showed up, “some of those officers seemed very buddy-buddy with the Proud Boys members.”

“They were feet away from anyone who wanted to come in because they knew their laws and stayed on the public easement,” Lipsyncki says. “You couldn’t avoid walking past them if you wanted to come to the show.”

They say the officers didn’t seem to care too much about protecting the LGBTQ+ crowd.

However, the confluence of events has given them pause and taken away this event since Lipsyncki says the weekend’s events were terrifying. Lipsyncki says they will take a break from hosting all-ages drag events until enough funds and adequate security arrangements have been made to ensure safety. They explained that this was a strategic decision and was not a sign of capitulation to right-wing hatred.

“Because of everything we experienced on Friday, I’m afraid we’re going to have to pause and step back to regroup,” Lipsyncki says. “Unfortunately, they won one battle, but we will win the war.”

The war, they say, involves the erasure of transgender people, particularly trans kids.

“Let me be clear that it’s not about drag queens,” Lipsyncki says. “It’s about these people not wanting trans neighbors to exist. They don’t want these trans kids to thrive. That’s the war they’re fighting.”

Supporters commented on Lipsyncki’s Instagram statement announcing the pause in the shows.

“This makes my heart break and swell all at the same time. We stand with you all. We stand behind you all,” wrote one person.

A parent echoed the sentiment. “We have loved our neighborhood all ages drag show!!! many wonderful memories with my kiddo!!!(halloween celebrating her 7th birthday was the best!) Thank you for introducing us to all the amazing queens and kings and non-binary beauties we have come know and love as part of Best-TEAS! And creating a magical space full of love and joy!”

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