GEAUGA COUNTY, Ohio (WJW) — Concerns about threats of violence at two drag events scheduled for Saturday in Chardon and Chesterland prompted Chester Township police to call on organizers to cancel the events.
A police statement issued on Thursday reads in part:
Based on current intelligence information as well as information provided by the event organizer, there is a realistic threat that organized protests and counter-protests could result in violence. 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. Additionally, there are other family friendly events being held in Chester Township on April 1st.
However, organizers said they have no plans to cancel the events at Element 41 in Chardon and at the Community Church of Chesterland. They expressed disappointment on Thursday that law enforcement was calling for the cancellation of the events, instead of trying to prevent extremist groups from disrupting them.
“You know, as a member of the LGBTQ community and someone who has worked in this area doing events like this my whole career, we know there are potential threats of protests and hate crimes,” said event coordinator Mallory McMaster.
The owner of Element 41 said threats being made about the drag brunch at his restaurant on the Chardon Square are based on misinformation.
“People are thinking that there’s going to be children here, and they’re telling me that we’re grooming kids, and we’re pedophiles and it just keeps getting blown out of proportion. This is an 18 and over event,” said Paul Mendolera.
Concerns about the threats of violence have prompted Mendolera to hire his own security team. Metal detectors will be used to check those attending the brunch for weapons.
Chardon police said they are aware of threats of violence made online by extremist groups. The police chief of Chardon said Northeast Ohio law enforcement will have a large presence at both events on Saturday.
Chief Scott Niehus told FOX 8: “We certainly recognize the right of folks to express their ideas and to express their viewpoints and we’re going to have enough officers here to insure that can happen without any kind of disruption.”