COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — LGBTQ+ advocates are turning an act of hate during a Columbus fundraiser on Saturday into a call to action.
Nazi protesters disrupted a drag brunch on Saturday benefiting Kaleidoscope Youth Center, the largest and longest-standing organization supporting the LGBTQ+ community in Ohio. However, since then, KYC has received an outpouring of support from the community.
In addition, the center told NBC4 it has greatly exceeded its fundraising goal of $5,000 by raising around $50,000.
Saturday’s brunch at Land Grant Brewery was organized to promote inclusion and community partnerships. Jake Bluvstein, a brunch attendee, said the crowd was surprised when the protestors appeared.
“I was here with friends, and a lot of other people. We were here to have a good time and raise money for Kaleidoscope Youth Center,” Bluvstein said. “We kind of saw them parading up all wearing matching outfits and hoods and glasses.”
While the mood initially shifted, he said the crowd rallied to block out the hate.
“It’s interesting in situations like that when something like that, the other side means to be terrifying and intimidating actually, and turns into a show of strength for the people they were opposing and that’s really what I feel like has happened,” Bluvstein said.
Erin Upchurch, KYC’s executive Director, said what happened next was remarkable.
“It really became like a sanctuary. People really dug deep within themselves about their love and community. I saw people holding blankets and tarps, and I don’t know where those things came from but they appeared and they were standing in front of the protesters, holding them up to block the view, their view of us, but also our view of them,” Upchurch said.
Upchurch said the drag performers commanded the stage, leading the community toward unity.
“I love the word backfire, because what it has done is, instead of lifting up their message, it lifted up the message of community and what is possible we all come together,” Upchurch said.
Donations are pouring in from across the nation, with even some celebrities donating to the cause.
“I think it was meant for a reaction. That’s what they wanted. I think the reaction that they got probably wasn’t what they wanted,” Bluvstein said. “It feels good to know there’s so much support out there for people living their authentic lives.”
Now, the center is hoping LGBTQ+ youth in Ohio see the true message that came from the event.
“You know we always say it takes a village and you’ve got all these folks who have your back. I hope that they are able to see that through the way that folks are lifting up the message and contributing to the work that we are doing,” Upchurch said.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and other city leaders have spoken out against the protest.
“The vile and offensive out-of-state hate group who protested at a drag performance yesterday do not represent our community. While their ‘speech’ is protected by the constitution, they do not have the right to threaten, intimidate or harm others,” Ginther said.
Upchurch said the financial support opens up many doors for the center to increase their services. She said it is amazing to know people across the country know KYC’s cause, and hopes this is only the beginning of the support for the organization.
Learn more about KYC and donate here.