Bomb threat fails to deter Pride event in Newton

Local News

The threat came just before a drag queen story hour event at the New Art Center.

Bomb threat fails to deter Pride event in Newton
Drag queen Missy Steak hosting a story hour event at the New Art Center in Newton. New Art Center

A drag queen story hour event at an arts center in Newton proceeded without incident after a bomb threat almost derailed it. 

Just after 10 a.m. on June 9, the New Art Center received a message indicating that bombs were placed on the roof of its building on Washington Park. The message said that the building would “go boom” at 11 a.m., according to a statement from Emily O’Neil, the center’s executive director. 

A free, public drag queen story hour event was scheduled for 11 a.m. that morning. The threat did not specifically mention the event, but the timing made O’Neil and others at the center believe that that was the reason the threat was made. 

The New Art Center is a non-profit that offers a variety of classes, exhibitions, and other events. This was the first bomb threat that the center has received in its 47-year history, according to O’Neil. 

Staff members immediately reported it to Newton police. Officers responded alongside members of the Newton Fire Department. They safely searched and cleared the building, according to O’Neil. 

People who had come to attend the story hour were told what happened. Some chose to leave, but about 30 families stayed for the event, which was hosted by drag queen Missy Steak. Newton police officers also stayed for a while after clearing the building. 

“It’s my mission as a drag queen, an artist, and a person, to create spaces where joy can be celebrated and kindness reciprocated. And appreciated. Where sadness is alleviated. And no person is alienated,” Missy Steak said in a statement included in the communication from O’Neil. 

The story hour was part of the center’s Cultural Access Program, an initiative that looks to “provide increased community outreach by creating more diverse and inclusive programming.” The center prioritizes offering free programs that anyone can participate in. 

The center was offering the story hour in celebration of Pride month. 

“At our core, we believe art plays a vital role in building a thriving, inclusive, and innovative community, and we state unequivocally that hate has no home at New Art,” O’Neil said in her statement. 

Events celebrating members of the LGBTQ community have been increasingly targeted by white supremacists and other hate groups. Members of the neo-Nazi group NSC-131 disrupted drag queen story hours in Taunton, Jamaica Plain, the Seaport District, and Concord, N.H. in recent years. 

In May, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning to the public about the potential for foreign terrorist organizations or their supporters to target Pride events.

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