Three people were arrested Sunday after an incident broke out between a group of protesters and counterprotesters outside a restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas.
The incident occurred outside Fort Brewery and Pizza, where a drag event was scheduled to take place.
A small group from Protect Texas Kids, an anti-LGBTQ+ organization that has protested drag events in the past, gathered across the street to protest during the event. Meanwhile, counterprotesters stood in front of the establishment dressed in black and wearing helmets and tactical vests. Many of the counterprotesters were armed with handguns and long guns, the police said.
At about 12:50 p.m., one of the counterprotesters, who was later identified as Samuel Fowlkes, 20, pepper-sprayed the protesters from the Protect Texas Kids group, according to the Fort Worth Police Department.
Officers attempted to arrest Fowlkes for the assault, but Fowlkes swung his fists at the officers, police reported. Another counterprotester, later identified as Christopher Guillott, 33, reportedly attempted to interfere by swinging an umbrella at the officers and was arrested after allegedly striking an officer in the face with it.
Police said both Fowlkes and Guillott resisted arrest. A third counterprotester, identified as Meghan Grant, 37, charged past the officers to get to Guillott and Fowlkes, police reported, adding that Grant didn’t comply with officers as they tried to push her to the sidewalk and was taken into custody.
“Fort Worth Police Department respects everyone’s constitutional rights to free speech and assembly. Our main goal during any protest event is to provide a safe environment that respects all participants’ constitutional rights, while effectively maintaining public peace and order,” the department said in a statement. “However, those who choose to violate the law and assault others will be arrested and charged.”
Drag shows and LGBTQ+ spaces in the U.S. have faced a surge of targeted attacks in the past year from far-right and anti-LGBTQ+ groups. White supremacist groups have disrupted several drag events in cities nationwide, including in Wadsworth, Ohio, last month. The attacks follow on the heels of the deadly Club Q nightclub shooting in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in November that left five people dead and several others injured.
According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the three who were arrested were members of the Elm Fork John Brown Club, an organization that describes itself on Twitter as “helping marginalized communities in organizing community defense against white supremacists / fascism.” Both the Elm Fork John Brown Club and Protect Texas Kids have been involved in several drag-related protests throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area and have attended them with armed participants, the newspaper reported.
It’s unclear if the counterprotesters who were not arrested were also part of the Elm Fork John Brown Club.
The altercation between the anti-drag show group and the LGBTQ+ supporters, as well as the arrests, were captured on a city camera and on police body camera footage, released Monday.
In the body camera footage, Fowlkes is seen walking away from officers as they approach him. The officers attempt to arrest him, and Guillott can be seen trying to interfere. People in the background yell for the police to stop.
“Do not reach for that gun,” one of the officers said after pinning Fowlkes down. “You will be shot if you reach for that gun.”
Fowlkes repeatedly called out for help as the officers arrested him. The footage also shows Grant being pushed by an officer as she pointed to the people being arrested, repeating “What does he need a medic for?” followed by her being pinned to the ground and arrested.
According to the police, Fowlkes faces four counts of assault causing bodily injury, one count of evading arrest and detention, one count of resisting arrest and one count of assaulting a peace officer. Guillott faces one count of assaulting a peace officer and interference with public duties. Grant faces one count of resisting arrest and one count of interference of public duties.
All three are being held on bond, ABC News reported.
The Texas Senate passed bills restricting drag performances around children a few weeks ago. According to the Texas Tribune, there have been more than two dozen anti-drag incidents in the state since June 2022.