CHESTERLAND, Ohio — Hate groups are planning to protest another northeast Ohio drag-themed event, with this one a fundraiser for a local church.

The Drag Brunch and Story Hour, set for Saturday, April 1, is a sold-out fundraiser organized through a partnership between the UCC Community Church of Chesterland and Element 41, a local restaurant, according to the United Church of Christ.

Cleveland Proud Boys are accused of circulating flyers on social media inviting others to join them in protesting at “a rally against groomers.” Hate groups routinely claim drag performers are pedophiles, asserting events featuring drag performers are designed to "groom" or exploit minors. 

Earlier this month, several hate groups disrupted the Rock-n-Roll Drag Queen Story Hour in Wadsworth, shouting accusations of pedophilia to those in attendance.

What You Need To Know

  • Hate groups plan to protest a drag-themed fundraiser at a Chesterland church and restaurant

  • The Drag Brunch and Story Hour sold-out fundraiser is Saturday, April 1 at the Community Church of Chesterland and Element 41

  • Geauga County law enforcement recommended the event be canceled, but the church refused

  • On social media, the church asked those who plan to counterprotest to stay home

United Church of Christ doctrine includes a commitment to being “open and affirming” and to serving as places of refuge for marginalized communities, according to UCC headquarters in Cleveland

The sold-out Drag Brunch and Story Hour fundraiser will go on despite the Cleveland Proud Boys, a hate group, organizing to protest. (Community Church of Chesterland)

In Chesterland, the two-part event includes a drag show earlier in the day at Element 41, which is sold out and age-restricted to those 18 and older, according to Eventbrite. The storytelling hour, which is free to attend, is set to begin at 4 p.m. at the church, located at 11984 Caves Road in Chesterland. 

The church building suffered damage on Saturday, March 25, when Molotov cocktails were thrown and an exterior sign smashed, but the community church has refused to cancel the event.

A flyer circulating on social media calling protesters to attend a drag show fundraiser.

“We are expecting some protest activity outside the events Saturday,” the church wrote in a social media post. “Despite three vile threats from hate groups, we are moving forward and we are confident in our security plan.”

On Thursday, Chester Township Police, Chardon Police and the Geauga County Sheriff issued a joint statement recommending the event be canceled. 

“Based on current intelligence information as well as information provided by the event organizer, there is a realistic threat that organized protests and counterprotests could result in violence,” Chester Township Police Chief Craig T. Young wrote. “It is important to note that the ‘Story Hour’ event being held in Chester Township is focused on children and there will be children present at the church.”

The church wrote in a response it is disappointed in the chief’s decision to make a public statement without law enforcement sharing information with church officials about any direct or specific threats. 

Geauga County law enforcement requested the church cancel the fundraiser. (Community Church of Chesterland)

Instead, the church wrote, police “cited heightened tensions on social media around drag queens and trans issues — something we all live with every day.” 

“In the meantime we implore police officials to turn their attention away from our private events and focus on keeping the hate groups away,” the church wrote. “Instead of asking us to hide, perhaps they could tell the hate groups not to come.”

The statement was signed by several members of the church’s leadership team and the owner and head chef of Element 41.

The church also published a request on social media imploring those who plan to counterprotest on Saturday to stay home.

“We desperately wish to communicate to well-meaning supporters and community members that they should stay home if they are not coming to our events with a ticket,” the church wrote.

The church also issued a call to action for those who want to help, and asked for donations to help pay for additional security in the coming weeks:

  • Help raise money for security (we need another $5,000). 
  • Send flowers for performers to TFG 125 Main St #2, Chardon, OH 44024.
  • Flood the church and Element 41 with support on social media. 
  • Join the church for a vigil at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Chardon Square.

Earlier this month, a UCC church in Loomis, Calif., canceled its fundraiser after it came under attack for a drag event, UCC wrote on its website. That church also postponed Sunday worship because of ongoing threats.