Police chief explains why officers gave Proud Boys high-fives at Ohio drag protest

Proud Boys

Ohio’s chief of police has issued a statement explaining why officers were seen giving high-fives to members of far-right group Proud Boys after protest threats caused a local drag event to be cancelled.

The event, a Drag Queen Story Hour-adjacent event called “Holi-Drag Storytime” was cancelled on Saturday (3 December) after promises of protest from several extremist groups.

More than 50 demonstrators from various right-wing groups showed up at the venue on Saturday, some bearing arms. Video shared on social media showed police giving high-fives to Proud Boys members.

Chief of Police Elaine Bryant responded on Monday (5 December) to allegations from the organisers of the event – officials from Red Oak Community School – that Columbus police neglected to provide security for the event.

Bryant said police had been in contact with the organisers from the beginning, working with them to develop a safety plan.

Meanwhile, school officials said the police provided only a “casual, distant acknowledgement” of protest threats from extremist groups.

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“I spent a week calling our police department and leaving voicemails about the reports we had seen,” Cheryl Ryan, Red Oak Community School Manager, said in a video.

“After a week, I was told we could hire a special duty officer, who may or may not show up because they’re understaffed.”

Police Chief Bryant’s response detailed an account of events that seems to contrast the organisers’ claims. Bryant went on to explain a circulating video of a Columbus police officer high-fiving a Proud Boys protestor the day of the event.

“A video has been shown online that shows one of our dialogue team members high-fiving a member of the Proud Boys,” Bryant said.

“We understand how this looks and how this could make community members feel. However, this was not done to show solidarity, but an attempt to defuse a tense situation.”

Proud Boys
A group of Proud Boys at a pro-Trump march in Washington. (Twitter/@HannahAllam)

The Columbus dispute follows several months of anti-LGBTQ+ and trans legislation and protest, not to mention last month’s Club Q massacre.

In June, members of the Proud Boys stormed a Drag Queen Story Hour at a California library, “yelling, screaming, inciting violent threats, [and] traumatising children and their families.”

The “Drag Queen Story Hour” was born in in 2015 to champion queer and diverse narratives for schoolchildren.

Attacks on drag events have become such a threat, that some of the nation’s most prominent drag queens have recently resorted to hiring armed guards for their performances.

The Columbus incident proves that police presence is not always a safety measure. Far-right extremist groups like the Proud Boys are reported to recruit members from law enforcement across the country.