Police were called to the scene of an all-ages drag reading Sunday after a bomb threat was received. The King’s English Bookshop in the 15th and 15th neighborhood of Salt Lake City was scheduled to host Drag Queen Storytime with Tara Lipsyncki today at 11 a.m.
At 10:23 a.m. Sunday, bookshop owners posted on their Facebook page that “Today’s Drag Queen Story time has been canceled due to a bomb threat.”
At 10:50 a.m., Salt Lake City Police tweeted, “We are investigating a suspicious circumstance at The King’s English Bookstore. We have closed 1500 East from Emerson Ave. to Kensington St. as a K9 Unit from our Airport Division checks the area.
Twenty minutes later, police gave an “all clear” after searching the interior and exterior of the building.
Bookshop owners decided to close for the day in an abundance of safety.
“For the safety of our booksellers and loyal readers, we have decided to close today,” a sign on the door read.
“Thanks for the love, everyone; we’ll see you tomorrow. May be a good day to read a banned book,” the bookshop posted on Facebook.
Organizer Tara Lipsyncki-Munro released a statement with the headline, “When will these threats stop? When will enough be enough?”
Lipsynki called the bomb threat “an act of domestic terrorism.”
“This is not the first threat of violence I have had the last nine months,” Lipsynki said. “With Proud Boys
showing up at one of my events in January, to push back and threats from events in Vernal and St. George, and now this. I have been the target of a lot of hate. But I will make one thing very clear; | inherited my late mother’s fighting spirit, stubbornness, and tenacity, and I will not back down from
“In the face of hate and threats, you have two options — to fight back or to back down. I Will always fight and stand my ground when I am able to do so. The community needs events like story time to provide a safe space and visibility for anyone, especially youth, who feels marginalized and unseen. It has been my mission to provide those space spaces, and it will continue to be my mission to provide those space spaces,” Lipsynki said.
“I will not back down; I will not succumb to these threats,” Lipsynki continued. “And I will not stop fighting for a society where we are truly safe.”
“I cannot say this strongly enough, EVERYONE belongs in Salt Lake City,” tweeted Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall. “The actions today to cause fear at @KingsEnglish around a drag story time event are not welcome here. We’re looking forward to working with King’s English so this event can happen at a future date for all those who wanted to be there today.”
Salt Lake City Councilman Dan Dugan, who represents the area The Kings English is in, said he is saddened by the bomb threat.
“It’s disheartening that our community and our city have been threatened by such hateful actions, and as leaders — government leaders and business leaders — we all need to take a strong stance against this hatred of others,” Dugan said. “We should have open hearts and open minds to multiple perspectives and beliefs and not be ruled by hate and narrow-mindedness. So my heart goes out to the King’s English staff and ownership and the local community for having to deal with this threat to their freedoms.”
Rep. Jennifer Plumb happened on the scene.
“Stopped by The King’s English to grab a birthday read for Margo and Me today…have been going there since I was a kid walking from my elementary school. They were closed. …they were shut down by a threat of violence over a story hour,” Plumb tweeted. “Can we please talk about actual threats?!”
Utah Democrats Communications Director Ben Anderson tweeted, “I want to be as clear as possible here: these kinds of threats are a direct result of the hateful and extreme rhetoric coming from Republicans in Utah and across the country. Fear-mongering for political gain has real-world consequences.”
Salt Lake City Councilman Alexander Puy tweeted, “Today, (& not the 1st) a bomb threat was falsely called on the @KingsEnglish at the same time Drag Story Time was about to start. Don’t terrorize us, hurt the livelihood of a local store, and draw police resources. If you try to scare us, we will shine even brighter.”
The event has happened on the last Sunday of each month since June, which organizers say “captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models.”
Depending on the actual threat made, “Making a false alarm” can be a 2nd-degree felony, with a potential 15 years and a fine of up to $10,000, or down to a class-b misdemeanor, with up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
UPDATED: This story was updated to include a statement by event organizer Tara Lipsynki and Salt Lake City Councilman Dan Dugan.