Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has blasted the protesters who derailed a local council meeting in Glen Waverley last week, accusing them of spreading “hate speech” to force the cancellation of a drag queen reading event.
On Thursday afternoon, the City of Monash announced its controversial “drag storytime” event had been scrapped, citing advice from Victoria Police that it should not proceed.
“This decision was made in consultation with police following repeated threats of violence and intimidation against councillors, families booked to attend the event, the performer and council staff,” the council said.
“Councillors and staff have received messages that nobody should be expected to receive in their workplace, as have our LGBTIQA+ community. In recent days these threats escalated to direct threats of violence involving the event itself.
“We apologise to our LGBTIQA+ community for this outcome. We hope they understand we did not make this decision lightly and we share their disappointment.”
A council meeting last week descended into chaos as tensions flared over the council’s funding of the drag storytime event.
Monash CEO Andi Diamond said “hateful and threatening commentary and misinformation” about the event had spread online and over the phone.
“It is incredibly disappointing to have to cancel an event designed to celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, but we were left with no choice after Victoria Police advised council of the risks associated with holding the event,” said Dr Diamond.
“Our drag storytime event was designed to introduce children to diverse role models and encourage acceptance, love and respect for our LGBTIQA+ community. It is so disappointing that some people have a long way to go before this is achieved.
“We understood this was not for everyone and scheduled it outside our regular library programs so that parents planning to bring their children were making a deliberate choice to attend. Unfortunately, some in the community were not willing to allow that choice.
“In the end, we were unable to guarantee that we would be able to hold the event safely.”
The decision to cancel the event comes a week after a council meeting descended into chaos, with demonstrators from both sides of the issue clashing.
Police officers stepped in to control the crowd after members of the anti-drag group started to shout abuse at the LGBTQIA+ supporters.
“The vile language and rhetoric being used was offensive and quite intimidating,” one of the attendees, Monash resident Gregory Storer, told NCA NewsWire afterwards.
“I heard people calling me a f***ot, groomer and paedo.”
Police had to separate the groups of protesters.
Speaking on the floor of Victoria’s parliament on Thursday, Mr Andrews condemned the “shameful conduct out of the city of Monash”.
“I don’t know how many of these protesters, with not an exercise in free speech but an exercise in hate speech, bigotry, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia – the list goes on,” said the Premier.
“Ugly scenes, ugly scenes on any measure, including death threats against council officers and councillors. It is a disgrace. It is a disgrace. It’s shameful.
“And my message to those people is very clear: if you want to behave like the worst elements of the Florida Republican Party, well get to Florida. Get over there, where your hateful views might be worth something. They’re worth nothing here. We won’t stand for that ugly behaviour here. It’s appalling.”
The American state Florida has become a central battleground in the culture wars. The state’s Governor, Republican Ron DeSantis, is conducting a self-described “war on woke”, which has included measures to outlaw the discussion of gender identity and sexuality in schools.
“And I again make the point, it’s not about free speech. This is hate speech, plain and simple,” Mr Andrews continued.
“It is wrong, it is out of step with the values of fair-minded, decent, mainstream Victorians. It is on the fringe.
“Equality is not negotiable. And despite the carry-on and the shameful behaviour of a small few, this government remains committed to every single Victorian, no matter who they are or who they love.”