JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Organizers of a Jacksonville holiday drag show are on edge after receiving several threats from a group known for violent protests.
The Proud Boys, considered by the Anti-Defamation League as a right-wing extremist group with a violent agenda, have told the performers they intend to show up in large numbers during the Sleigh the Holidays Drag Brunch Sunday.
Both event organizers and Tepeyolot Cerveceria (Tepey's) in East San Marco have received messages and emails for several days from members of the Proud Boys.
In fact, while First Coast News was at Tepey's conducting interviews, a bartender answered a call from someone who said they'll have a hundred people there to protest, while also saying spewing several derogatory terms at him.
For one performer, standing up against hate comes as part of the territory.
"I do it for being onstage," said Sleigh the Holidays Emcee Kolbey Criss. "I love being somebody else for a change."
Criss has taken the stage at Tepey's once a month since July for drag brunch.
Those performances have gone off without a hitch, but with the holiday show coming up this weekend, Criss' inbox has been inundated with threats from Proud Boys.
The messages call on organizers to change the event from open to all ages to 18+, or they'll have members from across the country arrive to protest.
"I could've made this all go away if I'd done the one thing they asked and make it 18 and up," said Criss. "The fact that you're now telling me that I have to do that, I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to tell a parent how to raise their child."
Criss says not all drag shows are the same - and all the costumes, songs and performances for the brunch show will be appropriate for all ages.
"I think the most dangerous thing about a drag queen is that you might get some glitter in your eye," said Criss.
Criss has no issues with a peaceful protest, but some of the messages have included pictures from a Proud Boys protest at a drag event in Ohio.
"They were dressed like they were at war in Iraq with uniforms and rifles, that's not necessary," said Criss.
Tepey's management and the performers filed a report with JSO about the threats, and agreed they'll go on with the show, open to all ages.
"As a drag performer, female impersonator, gay man in myself, that's what we do," said Criss. "We fight."
The owner of Tepey's says JSO told him they'd provide security if he pays for it, so he's looking at that option to make sure the patrons, staff and performers are safe.