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No arrests after Geauga County church set to host drag performance hit with Molotov cocktail

The Plain Dealer  Cleveland logo The Plain Dealer Cleveland 3/27/2023 Molly Walsh,
The Community Church of Chesterland, which plans to host a Drag Story Hour next Saturday, said its sign and building were vandalized Friday night. © Paris Wolfe/ The Community Church of Chesterland, which plans to host a Drag Story Hour next Saturday, said its sign and building were vandalized Friday night.

CLEVELAND, Ohio – No arrests have been made after someone threw a Molotov cocktail at a church set to host a Drag Queen Story Hour.

Little else is known about the incident at the Community Church of Chesterland or the police response because Chester Township officials, in an apparent violation of Ohio law and a recent Ohio Supreme Court case, refused to release the full police report.

The incident happened about a week before a planned brunch and story hour sponsored by the church. The Proud Boys, an all-male, neo-fascist organization, last week circulated notices encouraging protests at the sold-out drag brunch that’s set for Saturday at Element 41 in Chardon.

FBI spokeswoman Susan Licate would not say if the FBI is investigating the incident, saying in a statement that the agency is “aware of the incident and takes allegations of federal law violations seriously.”

In a police report that contains a three-sentence narrative, Chester Township police reported that the incident happened late Friday and that the incident involved someone damaging a church sign with a Molotov cocktail.

“Officers responded for a report of damage to a sign, already reported, and a Molotov cocktail that was thrown at a door with minor fire damage,” the narrative said. “A report and evidence were taken while on scene. The detective bureau was called in and an investigation is ongoing.”

Church Pastor Jess Peacock said they received a call from a member of the church Saturday morning saying the sign at the church’s entrance had been damaged. Peacock said they found broken shards of a vodka bottle at the base of the church.

“At first, I thought it was from the wind but then I saw the scorching marks on the church and it became obvious that this was not mother nature,” Peacock said. “...This is absolutely a hate crime.”

Chester Township Police Chief Craig Young would not confirm whether a suspect or suspects involved would be charged for a hate crime as the incident is under investigation.

He also refused to release the full police report, citing an on-going investigation. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in June that police agencies must provide the public with a police report that includes summaries of any initial interviews of witnesses and immediate steps taken by officers.

Chester Township officials did not respond to multiple messages seeking comment.

Peacock, who is pansexual, said they were angry and sad about what happened to the church but still feels hopeful.

“It’s not hard to connect the dots, where this came from,” Peacock said. “There’s been public pressure to not do the drag shows, but we’ve continued with it and a week out our church gets firebombed.”

Drag performances have become controversial nationwide. Legislation recently passed in Tennessee restricts drag performances in public or in the presence of children and bans them from occurring within 1,000 feet of schools, public parks or places of worship.

Earlier in March, two people were arrested after white supremacists and Neo-Nazis protested the Rock-n-Roll Humanist Drag Queen Story Hour in Wadsworth. Nearly 300 people filled the park, with many chanting homophobic and racial slurs.

Peacock said despite the concerns for safety, the event Saturday evening is still going on as planned and expects more than 100 people to attend in support. The church is accepting donations to continue hosting similar events.

“For me, this is not just about a drag show,” Peacock said. “This is about an attack on the LGBTQ community, and not just not just what happened here, but what has been happening around the country.”

©2023 Advance Local Media LLC. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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