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Ohio Small Town Drag Event Brings Out Nazi Demonstrators

Amid the national showdown over drag performances and transgender rights, a storytelling event in a city park in northern Ohio became the latest flashpoint, fueled by demonstrators who waved swastika flags and shouted "Seig heil" before a melee that led to two arrests, USA Today reports. Hundreds of protesters, including armed white supremacists, members of several extremist groups and LGBTQ-community supporters descended on Wadsworth, a small town outside Akron, for a drag queen storytelling show that had been moved from a private venue. White supremacist protestors shouted "Heil Hitler" and made Nazi salutes outside the event while pro-LGBTQ counter-protesters chanted, confronted the far-right agitators and wielded rainbow-colored parasols as a sort of shield for attendees. Toward the end of the four-hour event Saturday, two people were arrested after scuffles involving pepper spray, the use of a flag pole as a weapon and a protester who, according to a witness and a video posted on social media, allegedly pulled a gun twice. Police Chief Dan Chafin said he's aware of the footage of the alleged handgun.

The face-off fits within a larger national pattern of rhetoric and threats surrounding drag events. They start with unfounded or unproven allegations that drag shows "groom" children for sex abuse, and have led to escalating violence and clashes in communities nationwide. Extremist far-right groups including the Proud Boys, Patriot Front, White Lives Matter and other white supremacists have glommed onto the anti-drag cause over the last few years. The weekend's event in Ohio featured a full range of these groups. Supporters of so-called all-ages drag shows say they're important to help LGBTQ youth realize they're not alone in their communities, noting that transgender youth face much higher risks of death by suicide. Experts say a combination of right-wing media outrage and local social media activism has driven more groups to confront one another at these events. “It’s tied back into these more conspiratorial narratives about, ‘They're coming for your kids,’ and is used to stoke outrage and hate towards the LGBT community generally,” said Jared Holt of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue.


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