When the Downers Grove Public Library decided to cancel a drag queen bingo event designed for teens, it did so because the library had received threats that made going forward with the event unsafe, library officials said. On Sept. 29, details of those threats were released.
The library received a letter that initially was sent to the DuPage County offices in Wheaton that included a bullet, according to Downers Grove police.
The handwritten return address on the envelope said, “Your Friends at MAGA,” and a Confederate flag sticker was affixed to the back of the envelope. The contents of the letter were brief and said, “More to come for Downers Grove library.”
The letter is the latest chapter in the drag queen bingo dispute, which has pitted right-wing conservatives deeply opposed to the event against liberal advocates who applauded the library’s efforts to host an inclusive event. Some opponents of the event have claimed via social media that the library did not receive any threats.
Bingo games and a short lip-sync performance were planned as part of the event, which the library said was to be geared toward seventh through 12th graders. The event had been scheduled for Oct. 11. The date of the game night coincided with National Coming Out Day. Tyler Reviglio, who goes by the stage name Aurora Divine, was set to host the event.
“It’s hard to believe someone thinks this is acceptable behavior,” Downers Grove Mayor Robert Barnett wrote Sept. 29 in a Facebook post that included photos of the envelope, letter and bullet. “I’m hoping this [like the earlier threat from out west] came from outside our community.
“If you think you know who did this, please contact the police and let them know so we can pursue the proper legal channels and, if you find sympathy with the message, look long and hard in the mirror and consider getting help.”
The threat from out west to which Barnett referred involved a Facebook post urging people to “bring weapons” to the library, according to police reports. It was written by an Idaho man who subsequently apologized and said he had no plans to attend the event, police said.
Other village officials also spoke out against the threatening letter.
Commissioner Greg Hose, who did not speak at the Sept. 6 village council meeting that included commentary from many opponents of the event, said he regretted that decision.
“The council chamber was filled with hateful, anti-inclusive rhetoric a few weeks ago in response to a drag bingo event scheduled for the Downers Grove Public Library. To that point, I had responded to those who emailed me against the event that I disagreed with them. I did not, however, speak out that night. There are many reasons I didn’t, some I’m willing to discuss and others I won’t. But the simple truth is this: I was wrong not to speak that night,” Hose wrote in a Sept. 29 Facebook post.
“Inclusive programming belongs in our library and elsewhere in our community,” Hose wrote “I call on the DGPL to schedule more inclusive programming in the near future, programming for adults and for teens. If you don’t think LGBTQ+ youth can be among the most at-risk in our community, you need to talk to a teenager.
“This is the most abhorrent, vile, disgusting display I’ve seen in my community in nearly a decade of public life. Violence and threats are not the answer to any public policy question. Everyone, across the political spectrum, should denounce this immediately, particularly those who would consider themselves MAGA,” Hose said.
Commissioner Leslie Sadowski-Fugitt said the contents of the letter represent hate speech.
“I will scream until my throat is hoarse. If you are silent in the midst of this hate, you are complicit. This is hate speech,” Sadowski-Fugitt wrote in a Sept. 29 Facebook post. “This is violence. Our LGBTQ+ community members need to know that we have their backs. And I will do everything I can in my power to protect ALL our residents. I love you for who you are, and you are perfect exactly how you are. You belong here. This hate does not.”
News of the threat came after the Sept. 28 Downers Grove Library Board meeting, which was held at the Downers Grove Village Council chambers to accommodate the large crowd. Both supporters and opponents of the drag queen bingo event spoke at the meeting.