Orlando LGBTQ center cancels drag queen story hour over Neo-Nazi threats

Threats mirror a nationwide trend, says Anti-Defamation League

The LGBTQ+ Center, also known as The Center, in Orlando. (Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Threats from Neo-Nazis have forced an LGBTQ community center in Orlando to cancel a planned “Drag Queen Story Hour” event for this weekend.

The LGBTQ Center on Mills Avenue announced the cancellation and notified the public about the threats on Facebook.

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“We take these threats very seriously and would not want to endanger or expose children and their parents and guardians to bigotry and hate,” The Center said in its post. “We have the support of so many in our community including law enforcement, but as much as we would like to continue this fun-loving, innocent event, we feel that the safety of our community is our number one concern.”

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, said the Anti-Defamation League alerted her office about the threats.

Ben Popp, an investigative researcher from the ADL, says threats against drag queen reading events are a national trend.

“These narratives are becoming core elements of white supremacist ideology,” Popp said. “We’re seeing white supremacist groups in Florida spread anti-LGBTQ+ narratives in the propaganda that they distribute in the form of fliering, we see these groups begin to talk about this on their websites as core parts of their platform.”

Popp said white supremacist groups are linking that propaganda to the Great Replacement Theory, a belief that non-white populations are actively seeking to replace white populations in the United States.

“The LGBTQ+ community has become wrapped up in that narrative for white supremacists, they’re pointing to that as one of the ways in which white people are being replaced by encouraging people to not procreate, essentially,” Popp said.

The Orlando Police Department says it will be maintaining a presence around the Mills50 area and has been working with The Center through its district liaison and LGBTQ+ liaison.

The ADL released a report last month documenting the rise of hate groups and incidents in Florida in the last two years, finding over 400 recorded instances of white supremacist propaganda distribution in Florida.

The report also found that, based on the most recent FBI hate crimes data from 2020, 40.4% of the hate crimes committed in Florida were anti-Black, 15.6% were anti-gay and 14.7% were anti-Jewish.

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Christie joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021.