Leading up to a planned protest of a Drag Queen Story Hour event this weekend, vandalism has struck The Brewmaster’s Taproom, which hosts the event on a monthly basis.
At 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 7, Renton police responded to an unidentified vandal shooting a ball-bearing projectile at the front window of the Renton bar, which was not open at the time. Authorities say that the projectile was from a B.B. gun, pellet gun or possibly a slingshot, not a firearm.
The call to police was made by Brewmaster’s founder Marley Rall, who was contacted by a witness working at a coffee stand near the bar. According to Rall, the projectile was a “pretty large caliber situation” as it went through the first pane of the bar’s double-paned glass.
The vandalism happened a day after a post from a conservative Facebook page — which has since been taken down — began making traction online after calling for a protest of a drag queen storytime event that takes place at The Brewmaster’s Taproom every second Saturday of the month, including Dec. 10.
Drag queen story time is a popular event where drag performers read storybooks to children, and has been a staple at Brewmaster’s for two years with local drag queen Sylvia O’Stayformore.
“We’ve been doing this for a while and every month we get some phone calls and emails from people and you just kind of shrug it off and this time, it’s clearly not what it is been,” said Rall. “I’m just trying to allow somebody to read books to kids.”
While police say there are no suspects at this time, officials are searching for potential suspects from video footage and are pursuing the incident as a potential hate crime.
“If this damage is proved to be connected [to the planned story time protest], we don’t tolerate that kind of action in our city at all, especially if it’s tied to some kind of hate or hate crime,” said Renton Police spokesperson Sandra Havlik.
In response to the planned protest, Renton City Councilmember Carmen Rivera, the city’s first openly queer councilmember, announced plans for a counter-protest on her social media pages.
“We’ve seen an uptick in retail theft, crimes against businesses and things are getting more dangerous but what scares me is crimes caused by hate and pure bigotry,” Rivera said. “Just pure hatred is jarring. Living in 2022, you’d expect more.”
Since the vandalism incident on Wednesday, the Facebook group that announced the initial protest has disappeared, though screenshots show that they have “pulled the plug” on the protest and condemned the vandal, which Renton Police has confirmed.
Despite this development, counter-protesters plan on attending the drag queen story time in case protesters still decide to disrupt the event. Renton Police will also be on-site to monitor and keep the event peaceful.
“Obviously being a private business, and with these events being something they’ve done for some time, I’m not sure why it’s an issue now,” said Renton Police spokesperson Sandra Havlik. “We’re going to support the private business doing whatever they want.”
On Thursday, Dec. 8, board directors of the Renton LGBTQIA+ Community released a statement condemning prejudice and commending Brewmaster’s Taproom and Sylvia for being “stalwart allies to the LGBTQIA+ community, even in the face of threats and violence” and giving thanks to the City of Renton and the Renton Police Department for opening an investigation into the incident.
“I think that it’s completely awful. I feel so bad for Marley, the business owner. It’s sort of scary. Since what happened at Club Q [and] what happened at Pulse, there’s a looming anxiety that something tragic will happen,” said Winter Chapman, the Renton LGBTQIA+ Community vice president, referencing attacks on LGBTQ+ establishments in 2016 and more recently, when a mass shooter at the Club Q nightclub in Colorado Springs killed five people and left 25 others injured around midnight on Nov. 19, 2022.