ETSU student-organized drag show draws hundreds | WJHL
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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Hours before a federal judge issued an injunction halting enforcement of a new Tennessee law restricting drag shows, a student-organized protest and drag show at East Tennessee State University drew a crowd of over 800.

The law bans adult cabaret performances, including drag shows, in public places throughout the state.

“This was to try to erase the LGBTQ community,” state Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) said at the event. “There is no question about it.”

Organizers had planned for an all-ages event to be held in the Culp Center hours before the law was set to go into effect, but ETSU administrators said Wednesday that the event would be moved to the Millennium Center and restricted to audiences 18 and up.

Private security was at the event to check IDs at the door, something that student organizers did not agree with.

“We did not have a choice to make this 18-plus, the university wrote a policy just for us saying it has to be 18-plus and the enacted the bill early,” said Aria Inaba, an event organizer.

Many organizers called out ETSU President Brian Noland and compared the changes made to their event to an upcoming campus event featuring a conservative commentator Michael Knowles, which is scheduled to take place in the Culp Center.

“Shame on you Brian Noland,” event organizer and performer Noah Nordstrom told ETSU.

We reached out to ETSU for a response. A spokesperson said, “we do not have a response. Everyone has a right to their own opinions.”

A crowd of roughly 15 counter-protesters showed up in support of the drag show ban.

“I’ve heard about all of the story times across the nation which imply minors being involved, kids being involved,” said protestor Patrick Cole. “I think that’s revolting and wrong before God.”

Inside, the event was part entertainment, part political rally with speakers including Washington County Commissioner Jodi Jones, former General Assembly candidate and two-time presidential Candidate Marianne Williamson serving as featured speakers.

When asked why she had chosen to come to Johnson City to protest a Tennessee state law, Williamson paraphrased Martin Luther King Jr. saying, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“There are many things that we should worry about for children in America these days. Drag shows are not one of them,” Williamson told News Channel 11.

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