Members of the Proud Boys and Patriot Front showed up to picket the “all ages” LGBT event in Ohio

A ‘Drag Storytime’ event in Columbus, Ohio, was canceled on Saturday as dozens of conservative protesters marched outside. Organizers of the controversial show say that internal arguments, and not the presence of armed demonstrators, led to the cancellation.

Held by Red Oak Community School, an elementary school that incorporates “social justice learning” into its curriculum, the ‘Holi-Drag Storytime’ event was billed as an “all ages” performance in which local drag queens would read stories and “normalize and celebrate the beautiful diversity of the gender spectrum,” the Associated Press reported.

Protests had been planned since the show was first announced last month, and on Saturday, several dozen members of the Proud Boys, Patriot Front, and other conservative organizations marched to the Unitarian church where it was due to take place.

Independent journalist Brendan Gutenschwager posted video footage of the protesters, some of whom held signs calling the organizers of the show “groomers.” Others came dressed in military fatigues and carrying rifles.

As the masked Patriot Front contingent arrived on the scene, members of the Proud Boys chanted “feds,” a reference to the belief in some right-wing circles that Patriot Front is an entrapment operation run by the federal government. Notably, former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was himself a police informant for several years.

A number of left-wing counter-protesters showed up at the church, some of whom were also armed. No clashes between the groups were reported.

While the show was canceled as the conservative demonstrators arrived, organizers say the protesters had nothing to do with the decision. Instead, disagreements about security scuppered the LGBT event. 

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

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