Leading up to what was billed as a family-friendly drag show and brunch at UpRising Bakery and Cafe in Lake in the Hills, host and performer Jakki Love said she was nervous from all the vitriol that had come as a result.
The cafe’s owner had received harassment in the weeks leading up to it, which culminated in the cafe being vandalized the night before the show, and, the show being canceled.
Before being canceled, the drag show had sold out for the performance. Paired with a potential for protests, a variety of activity was expected to surround the cafe Saturday night. But now, boards cover its broken windows and police are patrolling the scene.
“You see all this stuff happening all over the nation and you naively assume that it’s not going to happen to (you),” Love said Saturday while standing in front of the cafe. “And then when it finally does, it comes as a shock.”
Despite those opposed to the performance, the community surrounding the cafe has been supportive, particularly on social media. The Facebook post from Saturday morning on the cafe’s website announcing the cancellation has gained more than 2,000 comments and likes.
The bulk of those comments are supportive of the cafe, with many asking how they can help or donate. Others call for “this insane intolerance” to stop.
“I thought we were more forward thinking than this in the area,” one comment reads. “From all these comments just know so much of this community supports you, it’s the small faction that have small minds.”
Keeping the same tone, state Rep. Suzanne Ness, D-Crystal Lake, said she feels “disturbed and saddened that a small local business in our community could be harassed and targeted.”
“Let’s not let hate ever win,” she said in her post.
Before being canceled, the Saturday-evening show had invited families and children, the latter of which had their tickets discounted. In response to the show, groups opposed to the performances were expected to protest. Counter-protests were also expected.
One group in opposition to the show Awake IL — an organization dedicated to stopping the teaching of critical race theory — said on its Twitter account the person responsible should be “prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Awake IL did not respond to requests for comment, but did say in previous social media posts that while it had “blasted this perverted event on social media,” they were not planning to organize a protest.
The vandalism happened around midnight on Friday going into Saturday, when Lake in the Hills police responded to the ongoing damaging of property. Shortly after midnight, police arrested Alsip man Joseph Collins, who was charged with a hate crime and criminal damage to property. Both charges are a Class 4 felony.
Following the vandalism, police patrolled the parking lot of the cafe all day Saturday. UpRising reopened on Sunday.
“Whenever these sorts of things happen I’m struck by how much love and self-confidence there is in the LGBT+ community and how threatening that is for a certain subset of the population,” U.S. House Rep. Sean Casten said in a Twitter post. “The folks who saw a drag show as a call to violence ... are weak, emotionally stunted ... who can’t contemplate a world with the love and courage you’ve shown.”
Lake in the Hills Village President Raymond Bogdanowski called the vandalism a “senseless hate crime” in an email Saturday night, and called it “disturbing” how far the suspect had traveled to carry out the crime. Alsip, which is located south of Chicago, is about 60 miles from Lake in the Hills.
“Our Village will not tolerate acts of violence or hate crimes at any time,” he said in the email. “We will work diligently to make sure guilty parties are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. All businesses and families that reside in Lake in the Hills deserve to feel safe at all times. We will work to ensure that everyday and night.”
Love, who is 23 and has been performing drag for about four years now, said those coming out against the show were coming from a place of “pure ignorance.” While she didn’t personally experience any harassment, she still saw a lot of claims against UpRising that those performing were “pedophiles and groomers.”
Along with Love, those performing were planned to include performers Venus and Krystal Ball Diva, the latter of which dropped out because of a scheduling conflict. Love said beyond what happened with the cafe, the show being canceled is a lost chance at wages.
Ultimately, Love described drag as an art-form and compared it to music, poetry and painting. There’s different levels of art for all ages, she said.
“People don’t know what drag is,” she said. “People only assume drag is this burlesque-style performance. ... It’s not that. If we’re having an all-ages drag show, we’re not going to be stripping in front of kids. We understand there’s children here. We’re people too. We understand right from wrong.”