A group of neo-Nazis protested an LGBTQ Pride event in Wisconsin on Saturday, carrying swastika flags and shouting homophobic language, according to NBC affiliate WMTV of Madison.
The neo-Nazi group showed up to an annual Pride in the Park event in Watertown, which is about an hour west of Milwaukee. Members wore black face coverings, sunglasses, black shirts and khaki pants, and some carried black flags with the swastika symbol on them, according to the Watertown Daily Times.
At one point, they chanted, “Us or the pedophiles,” according to a video shared on social media by Unity Project of Watertown, which organized the Pride event. They also chanted, “There will be blood, blood, blood,” another video shared on social media shows.
One person carried a weapon, the Watertown Daily Times reported.
Julie Janowak, board member at large for Unity Project of Watertown, told WMTV that she cried when the protest started because she was afraid, but she said police responded quickly and lined themselves up between the Pride event and the neo-Nazis.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers condemned the protest in a statement Monday, saying the neo-Nazis “chose to disrupt, intimidate, and harass kids, people, and families who were attending a local Pride event aimed at celebrating and honoring the LGBTQ community.”
“This is a disgusting and direct attack on our state’s LGBTQ community, communities of color, and Jewish Wisconsinites,” Evers said in the statement. “Nazis, swastikas, and any other anti-LGBTQ, white supremacist, or anti-Semitic messages, symbols, or groups are unacceptable and unwelcome in Wisconsin. Period.”
He added that their “dangerous, hateful behavior” should be condemned by every elected official “and that includes all those who continue to push radical rhetoric, divisive legislation and litigation, and falsehoods and disinformation about the LGBTQ community—those words, those actions, and those policies have real and harmful consequences.”
Elizabeth Boxell, a board member of Unity Project of Watertown, told WKOW, an ABC affiliate in Madison, that the protesters were “not thinking about us as people,” referring to the Pride event participants.
“They’re thinking about us as enemies, targets, inhumane,” she said.
However, organizers said the protesters weren’t there for long and the Pride participants were able to continue celebrating.
“Yes, we had a Neo-Nazi group show up to protest our event,” the Unity Project board said in a statement on social media Monday. “But you know who else showed up? The police department working hard at keeping us safe and the event peaceful. A group of religious leaders including rabbis, pastors, and priests affirming the individuals and community at the event. Allies and members of the LGBTQ community who spent the rest of the day laughing, sharing joy, making friendships, and spreading love. The Neo-Nazi group tried to derail us, but they failed. At Watertown’s Pride in the Park, love won.”
White nationalist and neo-Nazi groups, who are often armed, have increasingly protested LGBTQ events in recent years, particularly events where there are drag performers. GLAAD, an LGBTQ media watchdog group, found 141 incidents in 2022 of anti-LGBTQ protests and threats targeting specific drag events, including some led by armed white nationalist groups.
June, which marks LGBTQ Pride Month, also saw an uptick in anti-LGBTQ incidents, according to a report from GLAAD and the Anti-Defamation League. The groups documented 145 incidents of anti-LGBTQ hate and extremism nationwide in June, which is more than three times the 48 incidents documented during Pride Month last year.