The hateful comments began after June 8, when the owner of a Woodland, Calif. restaurant announced she would mark the end of Pride Month with a Drag Queen Happy Hour.
Christina Hayes was hosting the June 30 event at Mojo’s Lounge & Kitchen428 restaurant with the same spirit that had inspired her at other times to host school fundraisers and a car show.
“It’s all about community,” the 39-year-old Air Force vet told The Daily Beast.
She was surprised to see that the first venomous comment regarding her local nod to Pride came from the distant Midwest.
“I was wondering, ‘Why is this person from Central America trolling an Instagram post in little California? ‘” Hayes said.
A subsequent hateful remark was accompanied by a screenshot of his flyer and sparked hundreds of poisonous comments.
“That’s when we started getting phone calls and interactions on Facebook and Instagram with all kinds of hateful people,” Hayes said. “We immediately contacted the Woodland Police Department to advise them of the threat and to kind of explain to them how can we move forward to make sure everyone is safe?”
Hayes said the police department told him they would post a radio car outside Mojo’s and assign two additional officers to the area.
“Then it calmed down a bit,” Hayes said. “And then as the event got closer, the threat became a bit more localized with what we think are the Proud Boys. I don’t really know who they are, but a local hate group.
On June 11, a group of self-proclaimed Proud Boys interrupted a “Drag Queens Story Hour” at the San Lorenzo Public Library, about 89 miles from Woodland. The menacing intruders shouted homophobic and transphobic slurs. One wore a black and yellow shirt stenciled with an AR-15 rifle and the words “Kill your local pedophile.”
Now, on June 29, the left normal_resist The Instagram page posted a copy of Mojo’s flyer with a disclaimer:
“COMMUNITY SECURITY ALERT; PROUD BOYS ARE PLANNING TO CRASH THIS EVENT.
The norca_resist The page added: “Telegram chat shows Proud Boys planning to smash that Woodland drag show tomorrow night.”
Hayes contacted police with an update.
“To let them know about the new type of threat,” she said. “They doubled the number of additional officers who were going to be on duty and notified other departments to be on standby. I think they also said they forwarded the threats to the FBI.
But, says Hayes, a number of scheduled acts “didn’t feel comfortable playing that night.”
“And so they canceled,” Hayes said. “And so we canceled the show.”
But then the evil of a few met the good of many.
“A lot of people still wanted to come out in support of Pride,” Hayes said. “So we were basically open for business, as usual.”
Hayes decorated what she calls “an upscale, casual neighborhood bar and restaurant” with rainbow Pride colors and flags.
“And we had a big crowd of people starting around 4:30 p.m.,” Hayes said. “The place was crowded. People are having dinner, having drinks, appetizers, just having a good time.
Around 7 p.m., three characters arrived to make a beautiful evening even more beautiful.
“Two drag kings and a drag queen from the area decided to do it as an impromptu show,” Hayes recalled. “I had maybe 20 minutes notice that it was happening. And so they showed up and just did like a little 30-minute lip-sync, dance around, stand-up comedy routine.
The show ended around 7:45 p.m.
“Everyone was taking pictures with the drag queens, having a great time,” she said. “The night was coming to an end. »
A number of people were about to leave when half a dozen young men appeared outside.
“Just before 8:15 the Proud Boys, or whoever they were, started marching up 1st Street,” Hayes said. “Everyone who was outside who was leaving went inside.”
Hayes and his staff closed and locked the doors. Officers stood on either side of the entrance.
For a short time, there was a sort of stalemate. The people inside then opened the doors and moved to leave. The police asked them to close the door as the young men tried to burst inside.
“They were trying to get their way in and someone inside pepper sprayed one of the attackers right in the face,” Hayes said.
Police body camera footage shows young men immediately retreating with several officers. Hatred such as that first sparked in online comments now took the form of insults and epithets from the young men, who branded those inside “pedophile motherfuckers”. The door to the restaurant was locked again.
“Unfortunately with pepper spray, or pepper spray or whatever, he just doesn’t hit his target,” Hayes said. “So that created a cloud of pepper spray inside Mojo’s. And so everyone evacuated through the back of the restaurant.
One person suffered what appeared to be an asthma or panic attack and was promptly treated by paramedics. The others were escorted to their cars as the young men crossed the street from the front of Mojo’s.
“The Proud Boys or whoever those guys were screaming into an empty building,” Hayes said. “Everyone was going home and leaving already, so they didn’t stop anything. … But they terrorized people. And that’s sort of their main focus.
The young men sought to terrorize her in particular.
“The Proud Boys were screaming my name and address,” she later said.
“I’m fine, but it was a little annoying.”
The young men were allowed to disperse without being taken into custody, but the police department released a statement making it clear they weren’t just going to drop the case:
“Tonight, the Woodland Police Department dispatched foot patrol officers downtown near Mojo’s Lounge & Kitchen restaurant on 1st Street after the business received social media threats in response to their scheduled drag show. Several people showed up and disrupted while making derogatory comments about the event and the LGBTQIA+ community. At one point, there was an altercation at the door of the facility which Woodland PD officers defused. No arrests have been made at this time. »
The police also pledged to prosecute those who had spread hatred.
“Right now, Woodland PD investigators are reviewing surveillance video, following leads and working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to determine who made the threats. We want to be clear that the Woodland Police Department does not tolerate threats or discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion.
Several people sent Hayes pictures of the young men.
“They’re not from the area,” she said. “They are foreigners.”
On Friday, everything was almost back to normal.
“We got a drunken phone call this morning on our voicemail with hate,” Hayes said.
She added that she still hopes to host a Drag Happy Hour.
“We hope to reschedule maybe at the end of the summer,” she said. “But we’ll just have to take the room temperature and see what happens.”
She couldn’t offer any immediate theory about what fuels the hate.
“I have no idea where this came from and why they are so furious,” she said. “All I know is that in the end, love always wins.”