CHARDON, Ohio (WJW) — Organizers of a controversial drag show brunch and children’s reading hour scheduled for this weekend held a vigil in Chardon Square Thursday evening.
The plea for calm is in response to groups that plan on going to Geauga County, promising violent protests of the events.
Dozens of people gathered in Chardon Square ahead of two controversial events scheduled for this Saturday.
“How very beautiful you are, we are, together — a community, one of compassion and love and joy,” said Rev. Jess Peacock, of Community Church of Chesterland, as he prayed before the crowd.
The prayer vigil called for peace after what police call “legitimate threats of violence” at two drag-related events.
Earlier Thursday, Chester Township police erected steel barricades around the Community Church of Chesterland, where a drag queen reading hour for people of all ages, including children, is scheduled for Saturday afternoon. In fact, police had even asked organizers to cancel the events because of the threats.
The church was vandalized Friday night.
“I’m OK taking my children where I think that it’s appropriate for them to go to. And, you know, knowing my children, I might not take my 3-year-old to a story time that he might not sit through,” said Chesterland resident Rebecca Gorski.
Gorski said although she is not a member of the church, she came out to support them and plans to take her son to the reading.
“I had a discussion with him, explained allyship and protesters and what we might see,” Gorski said.
Before the drag reading, there will be a drag show brunch at Element 41 in downtown Chardon. The sold-out event is for people 18 and older, and the owner said people will walk through metal detectors to ensure their safety.
“I don’t get the controversy. I don’t understand it,” said Geauga County resident Andrew Caruso.
Caruso and his husband Rick Berlan say they will attend the brunch, despite the threats of violence.
“Being in our community, everybody knows you have to be careful anywhere you go. So, it’s just another day to be careful,” said Berlan.
A few protesters did show up to the event, but they were peaceful and prayerful.
“We think it’s important that evil is not celebrated; that God will change people’s hearts, and we think the best way to do that is to pray for people,” said Chardon resident Brandon Wosotowsky.
A small group prayed a short distance from the vigil.
“What we’re here for is to pray for peace, to pray for calm and we’re here to pray for people who are perhaps struggling with a particular sin,” said Chardon resident Dan Ritosa.
The restaurant and church are providing their own security as well as local police departments, the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office and the Ohio State Highway Patrol.