CLEVELAND — Rallying attendees before posters of scantily clad young men in “Make America Great Again” hats, speakers at a “Gays for Trump” party on Tuesday night urged LGBT people to combat radical Islamic extremism.
The featured speaker at the event, which was called “Wake Up” and took place at Wolstein Center Ballroom at Cleveland State University, was Milo Yiannopoulos, a provocative gay conservative activist and journalist.
Wearing a white tank top with the image of a gun in rainbow colors and the words “We Shoot Back,” Yiannopoulos said the time has come for the LGBT community to separate itself from the progressive movement to take on Islamic extremism.
In the aftermath of a shooting in Orlando at a gay nightclub by a follower of Islamic extremism, Yiannopoulos said while the left once supported gay people, that’s “no longer the case.”
“Growing up gay wasn’t that fucking bad, let’s be honest,” Yiannopoulos said. “But I still don’t see the reason why the left-wing press mollycoddles and panders to an ideology that wants me dead.”
Yiannopoulos announced at the event he would travel to Sweden next week to lead a Pride parade in what he called a “Muslim ghetto” in Stockholm. Yiannopoulos said he draws no distinction between Islam as a whole and Islamic extremism, although he acknowledged some in the audience may disagree with him.
Known as a provocateur, Yiannopoulos has made comments on social media saying it should be legal to hunt any man with over 20 percent body fat, compared feminism to cancer and set up a scholarship with funds available only to white males. A Trump supporter, Yiannopoulos said during the event Trump is “the most pro-gay candidate in American electoral history.”
Yiannopoulos spoke just minutes before he was reportedly banned permanently from Twitter for a series of tweets against “Ghostbusters” star Leslie Jones that were deemed abusive. As a result, Yiannopoulos said he intends to make the lives of people working for the media a “hell.”
“You have done nothing for gays,” Yiannopoulos said. “While you were busy hectoring and bullying and nannying us about transgender pronouns, you completely forgot that politicians in this country, Democrat[ic] politicians who are welcoming in a religion that wants us dead. They were welcoming in movements and belief systems that are completely incompatible with the Western way of life, with modern, Western, capitalist, liberal democracies, the only systems under which gay people are happy and successful and have rights.”
The estimated 500 attendees at the event, billed as the “most fab party at the RNC,” were predominately young white men, many of whom were wearing “Make America Great Again” hats in support of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. A line of attendees seeking to take photos with Yiannopoulos spanned a room adjoining the ballroom where the event took place.
David Griffin, a gay 24-year-old Georgia resident, came to the event wearing a Trump campaign hat and three buttons in support of the presidential candidate.
“I like Trump because he’s going to secure our borders, he’s going to put America first and, more importantly, he’s the most pro-gay candidate in the race,” Griffin said. “Hillary Clinton wants to bring people in from cultures that are very hostile to gays. The countries that she wants to bring people in from are countries that throw gays off buildings, stone them. It is not very good. I want people who believe in our values to come here.”
Some Syrian refugees coming to the United States are fleeing anti-LGBT persecution at the hands of the Islamic State. The White House has said LGBT refugees would be one of the priority groups of refugees seeking asylum in the United States.
Devin Conway, a 21-year-old student at Georgia Southern University, said he came because he wanted to surround himself “with like-minded people and to celebrate not only Trump winning the nomination, but hopefully winning the presidency.”
“There are people from all walks of life here, gay, straight, reporters, non-reporters,” Conway said. “I think it’s beautiful that we can all come together for one cause, and think that’s what Trump’s message is really all about, and I really hope that we can spread it to the rest of the country.”
Other speakers at the event warned against the dangers of Islamic extremism and urged LGBT people to pay heed to the threat.
Chris Barron, a gay political consultant and former board chair of the now-defunct gay conservative group GOProud, said Trump is making the Republican Party “more accepting for LGBT people all across this country.”
“The left wants us to believe that this is an election that’s going to be about bathrooms or who’s going to pay for our wedding cakes, but LGBT people and our allies know that this is a question of life or death,” Barron said. “We saw what happened in Orlando. We have a radical Islamic ideology out there that is dedicated to exterminating LGBT people all across this globe.”
Also speaking at the event was Pamela Geller, an anti-Islamic conservative activist who came to the event wearing a rainbow-colored shirt with the message “Love Will Win.”
“The Republican Party is the party of individual rights and equality for all before the law, all,” Geller said. “No special rights or special classes. Democrats exploit the gay cause for their own ends. We’re the real deal. We oppose jihad terror. What greater threat to the gay community is there than Islamic law?”
Geert Wilders, a leader of the conservative Dutch Party for Freedom, warned against allowing Muslim immigration to the United States, saying that the practice has led Europe down a dismal path and violence on the continent.
“There is only one Islam, and that Islam has no place in a free society because it goes against freedom,” Wilders said. “So we should close our borders for immigrants from Islamic countries. We should not let any jihadists returning to our free countries. We should expel criminals with a double-nationality after we have stripped them of the nationality of our country. We should stop the ‘Islamizaton,’ as a matter of fact, we should de-Islamize our societies.”
To a smattering of applause among attendees, Wilders said he doesn’t want any more mosques in the Netherlands or Islamic schools for “young children that we want to integrate into society who learn hate and violence.”
Outside the event, a dozen protesters carried a banner reading, “Queers Against Racism.” Although no individual among the protesters was willing to speak with the Washington Blade, they handed the press a slip of paper explaining their views.
“There’s nothing fabulous about racism,” the paper says. “Our grief is not a catalyst for xenophobia. We will not be opportunistically used to promote Trump’s rhetoric of hate. What happened in Orlando is a result of a homegrown culture of homophobia promoted by Trump, Pence and conservatives for decades.”