Armed Nazis, white supremacists swarm LGBTQ drag event in Wadsworth, Ohio

A screenshot captured from footage posted to Twitter by independent documentarian Ford Fischer of News2Share.

At an unassuming public park in Wadsworth, Ohio, dozens of armed neo-Nazis and other white supremacists descended on a scheduled drag storytelling hour.

By H.L. Comeriato, The Buckeye Flame

At an unassuming public park in Wadsworth, Ohio, dozens of armed neo-Nazis and other white supremacists descended on a scheduled drag storytelling hour.

Local parent Aaron Reed organized the ‘Rock n’ Roll Humanist Drag Story Hour’ in response to a sharp rise in violent, anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment across the United States.

The event was set to take place at Wadsworth Brewing Company, but was canceled when business owners said they received threats of violence via Facebook.

Instead, the event took place at Memorial Park in downtown Wadsworth and drew a crowd of nearly 300 —  including members of white supremacist and white nationalist groups Patriot Front, Proud Boys and White Lives Matter, identified via video footage posted to Twitter by an independent documentarian.

LGBTQ+ demonstrators, some dressed in rainbows, were far outnumbered.

White supremacy and anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric

Across the country, neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups have targeted LGBTQ+ groups and individuals as part of their larger goals and ideologies.

“Anti-Semitism and white supremacy are always tied together. Always,” said a spokesperson for LGBTQ+ advocacy group Equality Ohio said in a video posted to TikTok. “And they are always anti-LGBTQ+. This is what we’re actually fighting against.”

A sharp uptick in hate groups across the state has spurred ongoing safety concerns for LGBTQ+ Ohioans that reach beyond public space and influence anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-transgender policy and legislation.

“We know that white supremacy and anti-LGBTQ+ ideology have a long history of working together to attack our communities,” said another spokesperson for Equality Ohio in a statement Monday. “When one marginalized community is targeted, we are all targeted.”

‘There Will be Blood’

‘Rock n’ Roll Humanist Drag Story Hour’ featured a live reading from the storybook “Elle the Humanist,” a children’s book written by a child and her father.

Chris “The Hammer” Pohlhaus, a former U.S. Marine and current neo-Nazi identified by Twitter users, appeared at the event, leading a white supremacist group identified by Twitter and Reddit users as “Blood Tribe.”

Pohlhaus has also reportedly acquired property in Maine, where he plans to create a white ethno-state and house and train members of the group.

Members present at Memorial Park were heavily armed, and each wore tinted sunglasses, facial coverings and bright red matching sweatshirts. Members also carried a banner that read “There Will be Blood,” and chanted violent racist and homophobic slurs.

During the four-hour long event, Pohlhaus wore a visible firearm on his hip, waved a swastika flag and led chants of “Seig, Heil!” — a phrase adopted by German Nazis in the 1930s, accompanied by what is commonly called the Hitler Salute.

Wadsworth Police made two arrests.

Anti-LGBTQ+ policy in Ohio

Earlier this month, lawmakers in Tennessee placed a ban on drag and gender performance in public spaces, setting a dangerous legal precedent for all LGBTQ+ people, but for transgender people in particular.

In Wadsworth, City Council President Bob Thurber — who is currently running for Mayor of Wadsworth — was reluctant to support a city-issued permit for the event, and sent an open letter to the city declaring his plan to introduce legislation to ban public drag and gender performances in the future.

“The State of Tennessee has already passed a state law to protect their children by prohibiting these kinds of events,” Thurber said. “I will be asking Wadsworth City Council to consider legislation that would ban adult oriented performances held on city property with minors in attendance.”

LGBTQ+ advocates and activists say the closing ideological gap between longtime conservatives like Thurber and violent white supremacist groups is troubling.

“We should not have to put out a Monday press release to remind the leaders of this state that Nazis are bad. Yet, here we are,” said Equality Ohio’s Public Policy Director Maria Bruno in a written statement. “We should not have to explain to our state’s elected leaders that if the most ardent advocates against something or someone are Nazis, then perhaps it’s worth some self-reflection before they picket alongside them.”