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A Drag Queen Story Hour in Ohio spent $20,000 on security after a man was arrested for attempting to burn the venue down with Molotov cocktails

Katie Balevic   

A Drag Queen Story Hour in Ohio spent $20,000 on security after a man was arrested for attempting to burn the venue down with Molotov cocktails
  • An Ohio church hosted a Drag Queen Story Hour days after a man was arrested for targeting the church.
  • Aimenn Penny, 20, told authorities he was "trying to protect children" and was arrested on arson charges.

An Ohio church spent thousands on security for a Drag Queen Story Hour days after police arrested a man who tried to burn down the building using Molotov cocktails.

The Community Church of Chesterland's Drag Queen Story Hour proceeded "without incident" on April 1, after authorities say a man attempted to commit arson against the church on March 27.

"At the story hour, we just had so many kids that were smiling and enjoying themselves and parents that were dancing with their kids. It was just a beautiful, lovely time, which is what we wanted all along," pastor Jess Peacock told Insider. "It was made even more beautiful and lovely because of everything we had to go through to get there."

The event's security coordinator, Mallory McMaster, told The Guardian protection for the drag story hour cost $20,000 – calling it the "most involved and multilayered security process I've ever had to do for any event." She told the outlet that it was more elaborate than coordinating security for abortion centers.

"The rhetoric is so incendiary, and the language is getting more and more volatile," McMaster told the outlet, adding that six months ago, an event like this "would not have needed any security."

Authorities arrested

D. Penny, a 20-year-old from the Ohio city of Alliance, on March 25 after he used Molotov cocktails "in an attempt to burn the church to the ground," according to the Justice Department.

Penny's attorney, John W. Greven, did not immediately return Insider's request for comment.

In an interview with federal authorities, Penny "admitted to building the Molotov cocktails" in an attempt to burn the church, telling authorities he "was trying to protect children and stop the drag show event," according to an FBI affidavit.

He attended a previous drag queen story hour in a neighboring town to distribute "propaganda flyers representing White Lives Matter, Ohio's anti-drag queen views," the affidavit said.

Penny, who the FBI also said is a member of Ohio's White Lives Matter group, was charged with malicious use of explosive materials and possessing a destructive device, according to the DOJ.

According to the FBI affidavit, authorities searched Penny's home and found a "hand-written manifesto that contained ideological statements, a Nazi flag, Nazi memorabilia, a White Lives Matter of Ohio t-shirt, a gas mask, multiple rolls of blue painters tape, and gas cans."

Penny's arson attempt left scorch marks visible at the church.

In a Facebook post in the days after the incident, Peacock wrote to parishioners on Facebook, saying they were "exhausted, angry, saddened, and frustrated by the hate and ignorance that has been, quite literally, hurled at us in the form of a Molotov cocktail."

"Despite three vile threats from hate groups, we are moving forward and we are confident in our security plan," Peacock added in a later post, saying they were "expecting some protest activity" on the day of the story hour.

A lone protestor showed up at the church on April 1 and "sat streetside and did nothing," according to

"And the only memory resulting from the day's event at the church was Joy and Love! So much Love!" the church posted on Facebook after the story hour.

Pastor Peacock, who uses they/them pronouns, told Insider that the church received an outpouring of support and donations after the threats of violence. They added that the Community Church of Chesterland is "absolutely committed to continuing" to host LGBTQ-supportive events, especially after hosting the county's first Pride celebration last summer.

"This is why these events are important," Peacock told Insider. "The fact that so many people have reached out to encourage and support us, we are just so incredibly thankful for that."

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