Friday, January 27

Organizers cancel Holi-Drag Storytime event: “Our biggest problem wasn’t the Proud Boys after all.”

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(Editor’s note: The headline was updated to include a direct quote from the event organizer and the article has been updated to include statements from the Columbus Police Department and Mayor Andrew Ginther.)

Organizers of the Holi-Drag Storytime event in Columbus canceled the event hours before it was set to take place.

The event has garnered national attention due to the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group, announcing that they would show up to protest the event. 

The event was to be hosted by the Red Oak Community School and held at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus.

In her statement, Cheryl Ryan, School Manager, Red Oak Community School, said that the event was canceled due to how to best execute a security plan.

“I’m here on this empty stage because in the end there was a disagreement about how this community should be best protected,” Ryan said.

Read the full statement here. 

Ryan explained that the planning team attempted to work with the Columbus Police Department but that those plans were not yielding the support that event organizers needed.

“I spent a week calling our police department and leaving voicemails about the reports we had seen,” Ryan said. “After a week, I was told we could hire a special duty police officer who may or may not show up because they are understaffed.”

The organizers say they next attempted to work with an LGBTQ+ group who provided a safety plan, but that the group would only agree to provide support if law enforcement were not present.

In her statement, Ryan said the police’s “casual distant acknowledgement” of their event led the planning committee to believe that they would not be safe. She reiterated that it was not the Proud Boys, but the safety plan that resulted in the cancelation.

“In the end, our performers felt unsafe without a police presence, while our safety team felt unsafe with a police presence,” Ryan said, “So it turns out, our biggest problem wasn’t the Proud Boys after all.”

The Columbus Police Department provided the following statement to The Buckeye Flame:

“The Columbus Division of Police is aware of a statement made earlier today about our involvement in the Holi-Drag Storytime event. Unfortunately, what was said about our involvement is incorrect.

CPD learned about this event through Facebook and immediately reached out to the church and the school. A face-to-face meeting took place with all parties on November 18th to talk about the event and a safety plan. The school did request a special duty officer, but cancelled that request on the same day of the meeting.

During this week, CPD continued to communicate with the church, school, neighbors, and businesses in that area to inform them of our safety action plan. The school and church were consistently involved in those discussions through email and phone calls. CPD was told by the school that we could have plainclothes officers outside the event, but not inside the building for they had hired their own private security. CPD pulled together resources from several units to make sure we were present, including officers from our bike patrol and dialogue team. Even though the event was cancelled, we still had personnel and officers in the area to make sure all parties were safe.

The Columbus Division of Police protects all residents of the city equally. We have had several meetings with the LGBTQ community and continue to work together in partnership to make sure they feel supported and protected at all of their events.”

Despite the event’s cancellation, over 100 protestors – some armed – stood across the street from the church yelling as passersby.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther released a statement on Saturday saying that “what was said about [Columbus and CPD] involvement is incorrect.”

“A face-to-face meeting took place with all parties on November 18th to talk about the event and a safety plan. The school did request a special duty officer, but canceled that request on the same day of the meeting.

During this week, CPD continued to communicate with the church, school, neighbors, and businesses in that area to inform them of our safety action plan. The school and church were consistently involved in those discussions through email and phone calls. CPD was told by the school that we could have plainclothes officers outside the event, but not inside the building for they had hired their own private security. CPD pulled together resources from several units to make sure we were present, including officers from our bike patrol and dialogue team.

Yesterday, on Friday, December 2, the organizer of the event indicated that they no longer wished to partner with the private security firm and police tasked with protecting the event. As a result of this abrupt change, the event performers indicated that they no longer felt safe to participate in the event. Shortly thereafter, the event organizer announced the cancellation of the event. Despite the cancellation, Columbus Division of Police officers and personnel were onsite today to ensure safety at the site and throughout the surrounding neighborhood.”

Mikayla Denise, one of the performers, posted a video on Facebook on Friday saying that she was withdrawing from the event due to the internal conflict about which security would be present, and not due to the extremist groups that showed up to protest.

“The Proud Boys did not run me out of going to the drag storytime,” Mikayla Denise said.

This is a developing story and The Buckeye Flame will post more details as they become available. 🔥

Ignite Action:

  • Support the three performers on cash apps
    • $MsMikaylaDenise @Caleb-Robinson-50477
    • $Mizzfoxx89
    • $Bianca43232 @bianca614

About Author

Ken Schneck is the Editor of The Buckeye Flame. He received the 2021 Sarah Pettit Memorial Award for the LGBTQ Journalist of the Year from the NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists. He is the author of "Seriously, What Am I Doing Here? The Adventures of a Wondering and Wandering Gay Jew" (2017), "LGBTQ Cleveland" (2018), "LGBTQ Columbus" (2019), and "LGBTQ Cincinnati" (2020). In his spare time, he is a professor of education at Baldwin Wallace University.

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