A children’s museum was forced to cancel a Drag Queen Story Hour after the event attracted a barrage of death threats.
The private event at the Lincoln Children’s Museum was planned by Out Nebraska and due to be held after the museum closed on Saturday (24 July), with around 50 people attending.
But within days of announcing their plans the organisers were met with a flood of violent threats online, forcing them to cancel after discussing safety concerns with the Lincoln police department.
“Over the past few days the Lincoln Children’s Museum and event host OutNebraska have both received an overwhelming number of threats of violence against our organisations, many going so far as death threats,” the museum posted on Instagram.
“The Lincoln Children’s Museum is an equal opportunity facility and supports inclusivity. Cancelling this event and not having the children in our building to create, discover, and learn through the power of play breaks our heart, but the safety of ALL of our visitors, our staff, our exhibits and our building is and always will be our priority.”
In recent years drag queen events at libraries and schools have been gaining popularity as a fun and educational way to celebrate diversity, giving children a space to see people who defy gender restrictions.
Drag Queen Story Hour is a national program in the US, with the Nebraska chapter started by organiser Waylon Werner-Bassen four years ago. The event on Saturday was to celebrate LGBT+ families and give them a place to read books that reflect their stories, he explained to the Lincoln Journal Star.
“We wanted to make sure Nebraska was a safe space for LGBTQ families,” he added.
Lincoln Police Officer Luke Bonkiewicz confirmed to AP that police are investigating the threats. He declined to give details about the comments, but said they caused concern for the safety and well-being of potential attendees.
“Some of the threats and things were pretty valid,” Werner-Bassen said, “and it was better to be safe and to not have it.”
The news of the Drag Queen Story Hour prompted Lincoln mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird to issue a written statement on Tuesday morning (27 July) condemning the “inflammatory” threats.
“Playing politics with people’s lives is never acceptable,” she wrote. “Inflammatory online posts about a private event at the Lincoln Children’s Museum inspired threats and fuelled hatred and fear.
“All threats are being investigated by the Lincoln Police Department, and, to our LGBTQ friends and neighbours, know you are loved and welcome in our city.”