Organizers of a Halloween-themed drag show meant to raise funds for a local LGBTQ resource center are facing threats of violence and death after the event was featured by a right wing Twitter account with a nationwide reach.
Sanford Yoga Community Center and Combat Sexual Assault will host Halloween Drag Brunch on Sunday at Hugger Mugger Brewing in downtown Sanford. A private, ticketed event, the show will feature a brunch at noon and performances from Drag Queens and Kings from Greenville-based Underground Presents. All funds raised will benefit SYCC’s LGBTQ+ Resource Center.
But organizer and SYCC owner Lindsey Knapp, an attorney and U.S. Army veteran who has works as an advocate for victims of sexual violence, said she’s started receiving threats of violence and death over the event from strangers after the event was featured this week by “Libs of TikTok,” a Twitter account with 1.4 million followers that “reposts a steady stream of TikTok videos and social media posts, primarily from LGBTQ+ people, often including incendiary framing designed to generate outrage,” according to a story from earlier this year in the Washington Post.
Libs of TikTok’s tweet indicates that one of the drag performers is “inspired by Satanism,” although Knapp says she doesn’t know that performer and they are not on Sunday’s bill.
“I’m not so concerned about the people who are just mad at me or who may show up to protest,” Knapp said Friday. “On the back end, there are people posting threats, saying to show up with guns and ‘shoot your local pedophile,’ and that’s what has me concerned.”
Knapp has reported three separate death threats to local authorities, and has hired private security for the event. She says accusations of “grooming” and pedophilia have nothing to do with the event.
“This is about showing the LGBTQ community that they are loved and supported, and that their freedom of expression is supported,” she said. “I’m the parent of a trans youth, and I want him to know that he can be himself. I wholeheartedly believe that children should be protected from sexual assault – I own an organization called Combat Sexual Violence and I’m an attorney, and I literally represent survivors every day.”
Knapp said she’s trying to stay positive by planning a sign making party at her yoga studio on Saturday and encouraging those who support the drag show and its cause to show up and make themselves heard.
“We’re just trying to send a message that love wins and we all have a right to exist,” she said.
Sanford Police Department Major Vinnie Frazer said law enforcement is aware of the threats and investigating them.
“We’re adding extra officers that day to be downtown monitoring and making sure nothing happens and nobody’s rights are violated,” he said. “We take any threats of violence seriously.”
This isn’t the first time controversy has surrounded a drag show hosted by SYCC and Hugger Mugger. In June, both the yoga center and the brewery faced calls to cancel the event and subsequent criticism when they declined. But that event didn’t draw any threats of violence, and although a handful of protesters showed up outside, no incidents were reported.
“(Threats of violence are) taking up a lot of my time,” Knapp said. “I’ve reported them, and I had to go sit in front of the magistrate, and all that takes away from what should be a really positive thing. If people want to protest, that’s fine. As a veteran, I swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, and that includes freedom of speech. But you have to take threats seriously.”