A Shepparton Drag Storytime Event, which was initially cancelled due to safety concerns, has persevered with the help of the community and Rainbow Community Angels.
On Wednesday, November 16, Goulburn Valley Libraries were told by Greater Shepparton City Council to cancel the storytime event. Victorian Police and other stakeholders brought up potential safety concerns, which led to the Council’s decision.
Despite cancelling the indoor event, the local library staff and the Rainbow Community Angels action group successfully held the event outside the library premises.
Staff and Angels Step In
According to Rainbow Community Angels, over 100 people attended the event along with Drag Performer Frock Hudson, who read to the large crowd. The event ran smoothly, with no attempts of intervention from protesters.
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Rainbow Community Angels expressed the frustrations regarding the events initial cancellation, posting to Facebook, “The LGBTIQA+ communities and our allies around Victoria say we have had enough.”
They continued, “Enough of these far right extremists and neo nazis threatening our community events. We are out and loud and visible today for those who can not be.”
Events Cancelled Due To Harassment
With at least 13 events being cancelled in Victoria this year, Greater Shepparton City Council’s drag story time has been the latest LGBTQI event targeted.
Posting to Facebook, Victorian Pride Lobby announced their disappointment at the event’s cancellation.
“Cancelling these events emboldens extremists. It shows them that bullying and intimidation can get them what they want. The Police and Councils may be willing to allow that, but the community never will,” they wrote.
Co-Convenor of Victorian Pride Lobby Austrin Fabry-Jenkins spoke with Star Observer, expressing their disappointment of multiple events being shut down due to anti-LGBTQI extremist threats.
Fabry-Jenkins says far-right groups’ “tactics of intimidation and harassment” against staff and performers over the past year, have continued to jeopardise community events and the safety of organisers.
They explain that extremists typically do not live in the area as “fringe-dwelling conspiracy theorists who’ve built a following around being scared of 5G towers.”
However, groups’ have learnt to believe constant harassment will cause events to be cancelled.
Fabry-Jenkins thanks the advocacy of library staff and community members, and the perseverance from Rainbow Community Angels to continue with the event. They say it would’ve been “a real step backwards” if the event did not proceed.
Role of Victorian Police
Whilst the event’s cancellation was ultimately decided by Council, Fabry-Jenkins highlights the weight of Police’s advice to organisations which can heavily sway decisions.
Fabry-Jenkins says Police advice can be “terrifying to Council Officers,” who then feel pressure from the local community to cancel the event.
“We have heard time and time again from Victoria Police that they are committed to these events going ahead… but clearly, this work is still not filtering down to local stations,” they said.
Recalling a recent neo-nazi weightlifting event in which Victoria Police provided “huge logistical support” to keep counter-protesters away, Fabry-Jenkins questions why Police could not provide any further support to the library event.
“In this environment, it’s difficult to see any trust being built between the LGBTIQA+ community and Victoria Police.”
Victoria Police told Star Observer, “Greater Shepparton City Council made the decision to cancel the event.”
“We understand the decision was made after receiving the information from both police and a range of other stakeholders and it is ultimately a decision for the council,” said a Victorian Police spokesperson.
Victorian Police say they are committed to “the safety and wellbeing of LGBTIQA+ communities.”