A1A and Las Olas is an iconic location showcasing Fort Lauderdale’s beauty, fun, and inclusiveness. But on Dec. 3 it was taken over by ugly hate. 

Anti-LGBT groups rallied to spew long-debunked “science” and agitate the crowd using scare words like “groomers” and “radical sexualization.” Many of the usual groups were there, including Moms for Liberty, Florida Fathers for Freedom, and Gays Against Groomers. They shouted the usual talking points of erasing LGBT history, banning LGBT issues in schools (“Don’t Say Gay”), and casting the community as sexual predators. 

Counter-protesters would not allow these aspersions to go unanswered. As often happens at organized hate rallies, anti-LGBT hate groups, including the Proud Boys, tried to goad opponents into social media clickbait. For the most part, they failed, instead often being exposed to the bigots they are.

Equality Florida’s Senior Political Director, Joe Saunders, said, “Governor DeSantis’ refusal to denounce Neo-Nazi, Proud Boys, and other extremists have emboldened them. During [the] protest, an organizer of the hate rally aggressively taunted LGBTQ high school students calling out, ‘Where’s Jack!?’ in an effort to intimidate high school student Jack Petocz, an organizer of the youth-led counter-protest.” 

Petocz was a leading student voice against the “Don’t Say Gay” law. Despite being a senior this year away from South Florida, he still was able to organize the counter-protest, and stood strong in the face of intimidation.

Youth organizers were joined by openly gay elected officials, including Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis and State Senator Shervin Jones. 

Vigilante Violence

For the most part, Saturday’s event was violence-free. But as politicians ramp up their rhetoric, their supporters feel emboldened to take matters into their own hands. Over the weekend, criminals shot up a power station in North Carolina, and tens of thousands, including a hospital, were without power for up to four days. A rumored reason is that they wanted to stop a drag show from taking place.

The FBI is involved in the investigation.

Also over the weekend, IntoMore.com reports that anti-trans activists threatened a doctor who gives gender-affirming care to patients at Boston Children’s Hospital, and gun-toting protesters showed up at a drag queen story hour in Ohio. 

View photos of the rally and counter-protest on SFGN's Facebook page.