Watching far-right militia dorks get spun up online over the supposedly existential threat that men in heels reading children's books in public presents to all that makes 'Murica great can be good for a laugh—until the bullets start flying.
That's what Marley Rall, owner of the Brewmaster's Taproom in Renton, had to deal with at her business yesterday. Rall has hosted a local drag queen story hour every month for the last year and a half at her brewery, and until yesterday, she had never dealt with more than the occasional keyboard warrior showing up to make an ass of themselves for a few minutes at the start of the event.
But after the far-right social media trolls behind WakeUpWAState got wind of this month's reading, scheduled for Saturday afternoon, attention on the supportive gathering for Renton's LGBTQIA+ community blew up. Interest in a planned protest by far-right groups skyrocketed via WakeUpWAState's Instagram and Facebook accounts, with more people amplifying the group's plans on Twitter and Reddit, and on Wednesday afternoon someone fired a shot into the brewery's double-pane window. In the wake of the shooting, the right-wing group promoting the protest appears to have canceled the demonstration, but concerns of more violence remain.
This latest episode of gun violence targeted at a gathering of LGBTQIA+ people shows the real and potentially deadly consequences of hate speech online. Though the WakeUpWAState account has now gone private, Rall said in an interview that the spike in alarming posts "saying hateful shit" about the drag queen story hour happened after the group posted about Saturday's reading.
While Rall said she usually deals with some kind of protest during these events, the participants have never gotten violent. Although she can't confirm that the shooter was motivated by the online chatter, Rall said an employee at a coffee shop across the parking lot from her brewery saw someone drive up in a vehicle with the license plate removed and fire a single shot into the Brewmaster's window. Footage from surveillance cameras showed the shooter was wearing gloves and a mask obscuring their entire face, making it unlikely Rall or the police will be able to identify the person.
Despite the threat, Rall said the show will go on. She said she's refusing to let the apparent attempt to intimidate her into canceling the event succeed, and she has been in contact with the Renton Police Department to provide additional security on Saturday. Rall said the police are deploying a "camera truck" for surveillance and to act as a deterrent through the event, but she declined to ask the cops to show up in force for fear that it could escalate tensions between the anti-LGTBQIA+ protesters and the community rallying in support of the story hour.
I've reached out to Renton City Council Member Carmen Rivera, who helped organize the counter-protest, to confirm whether allies of the story hour still plan to show up, but I haven't heard back. I'll update this post if I do. Update: In a text, Rivera confirmed the counter-protest is still on.
In the meantime, if you're interested in hearing some excellent storytelling from some of Renton's preeminent performers in their finest drag while sipping some delicious craft beer, head on down to the Brewmaster's Taproom at 3 pm on Saturday.