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May 22, 23

Community Mobilizes and Defends Church Drag Event from Proud Boys in Portage, Michigan

Report back from recent community mobilization against the Proud Boys in defense of a church drag event in Portage, Michigan.

The day begin with cool Michigan sunshine. The type of day that comes around maybe twice a year when it is not swamp-ass hot or bitter cold. The kind of day that reminds you that it is, in fact, worth living in the upper Midwest. We tell ourselves this all the time. It is morel and trout season. It’s farmers markets, garden centers, and flower nurseries. The time of year you stop and talk with the people you, at best, gave only a passing wave to as you jumped into your freezing car only a few short weeks and months prior.

This also happens to be the time of year that the LGBTQ+ folks celebrate existence, the community that they nurture, and those who nurture them back. Except this year, it’s extra embattled because GOP fucknuts decided to put an even bigger target on the backs of gender non-conformists. Because of this, a few days ago, word started circulating throughout the community that the non-profit hosted family friendly drag event at a church the following Saturday, the 20th was receiving messages on social media from Proud Boys saying they would protest the event. Great. Those goobers again.

All told, only 10 of them showed while our side numbered about 40-50. Police were on the scene from the jump. So, too, was West Michigan’s iteration of a nationally syndicated ”local” news station, but they kept their distance. There was un-Christlike music in the parking lot, hugs, quick clacking of tactical mittens, flags, umbrellas, water, snacks, chanting, sharing terse words with the opposition, a far-Right YouTuber with his very cool selfie stick, and younger choads with full body Bud Light costumes. If you’re not up on the latest far-Right outrage over Bud Light partnering with a trans influencer and Kid Rock having a mantrum, go here.

An elderly church couple entering the venue were overheard, saying, “You see those flags!? Those are the anarchists and they’re here to help us!” An opposition sign said “Satan loves transgenders” or some such thing. To which, our side had folks embracing Satan and praising Them on high and promising unspeakable sexual acts with the dark lord. To which the church pastor took exception. And I found very. Very. Funny. We’re not without our tensions and contradictions.

For the far-Right, the end of the event was a sad and pathetic scene of a Christian fascist and his car that would not start while being heckled by unsympathetic bystanders comprised of anarchists, socialists, antifascists, church members, allies, and a wonderful constellation of folks from the queer community. “Don’t forget to check the (insert random car part that doesn’t actually exist)!,” they shouted across the street at the sorry sacks. Another on the opposing side had his sign ripped, he went burnt white bread and tried to fight everyone around him before getting tackled and then arrested after assaulting one of ours. For the chuds with functional cars, they hardly fared better that day.

A limiting factor was time. Had there been more time, there could’ve been room for additional liaisons between a non-profit event organizers, the church hosting the event, and the ragtag assortment of autonomous people and crews. What worked is the networks we have developed for many years that span the community, the neighboring communities, the state, and the region. From responses after mass shootings, Black Lives Matter marches and demos, to the Trump years, Richard Spencer’s embarrassment at Michigan State University, anti-capitalist May Day marches, protests for bodily autonomy, the George Floyd rebellion, and the last time the Proud Boys were shown the door – this was not most peoples first goat rodeo. And it showed.

Future LGBTQ+ and drag events are planned in this community. This most recent mobilization has been a catalyst for future planning and coordination that will only make us stronger. Again and again, we see that we are stronger together. We all have our own skills. We all have something valuable we can contribute. We all matter to each other. We don’t have to agree on everything but if we agree where it matters most, we are all the better for it. The trick is collectively deciding together what matters most, and what we can accept and tolerate from those we disagree with.

Aside from a friend that was injured and a church community intimidated by the prospect of having been made into a hate lightning rod by the far-Right, it was an undisputed win. That was the scene as I rode off, listening to “Today Was a Good Day (Remix)” by Ice Cube around the bend to where six to eight state police SUVs were ready should that call have been made.

photo: @Pamcake51646863

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