KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) —Dozens braved the cold in downtown Knoxville either supporting or protesting a holiday-themed-drag show at the Tennessee Theatre. Voices and signs were raised along Gay Street ahead and during of the drag show.

“The big thing is we’re talking about an arctic blast, but this is a blast from Hell,” Tennessee Pastors Network President Dale Walker said.

“One of the things you do if you want to take over or ruin a democracy is to attack the arts, to demonize vulnerable people,” said Anna Grabowski, who supports drag shows.

‘A Drag Queen Christmas’ was open to people of all ages. However, parental discretion was advised by the show promoter.

“This is very similar to a strip kind of show,” Patriot Church Pastor Ken Peters said. “It’s very sexually orientated, oriented and we cannot pull back that line for children. This is not a ‘parental advisory’ thing. This is a ‘no children allowed’ type of thing.”

“The folks that are protesting this really don’t even know what they’re protesting, I think. I think they are not really well informed, and they’ve been misinformed by people who want to use this for a political reason,” said Grabowski.

“This is a debacle,” Global Vision Bible Church Pastor Greg Locke said. “This is not kid-friendly. There’s no drag show that’s family-friendly but it’s certainly not children-friendly and so we’re here standing for the children.”

The Tennessee Theatre’s executive director told WATE this week staff at the theater expect patrons to make their own decision if they would like to attend an event or not and believe it’s up to parents and guardians to bring their children to a drag performance.

“This is a very conservative part of a conservative state,” Peters said. “This stuff should not be happening in the Bible Belt.”

“I think it’s being used by people that have political motives that go beyond what they claim,” said Grabowski.

There was a heavier police presence than normal on Gay Street as people display their opinions on the drag show.

On Wednesday, Mayor Glenn Jacobs shared the following statement with WATE.

It is my understanding that there will be a strong law enforcement presence surrounding this event. TBI Director David Rausch spoke with the theater and show promoter and laid out expectations for what will be allowed during the show. Here in Tennessee, we respect everyone’s First Amendment right to free expression and to peacefully protest, however, no one is going to tolerate any nonsense. So, don’t do anything stupid or you will spend Christmas in jail. 

Knoxville Police shared with WATE that no one was arrested during the protest.