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A Cedar Rapids brewery was targeted by hateful comments for its drag fundraisers. Now locals are rallying to defend it

Haley Flenker fills a tulip of beer at Thew Brewing, 301 Second Ave. SW, in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Friday, Mar
Haley Flenker fills a tulip of beer at Thew Brewing, 301 Second Ave. SW, in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Friday, March 23, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — A flood of hate was met with a flood of support this week after a local business was targeted online for hosting drag bingo events in support of a LGBTQ youth center.

Thew Brewing, located in Cedar Rapids’ Kingston Village, is hosting the sold out event Saturday, with proceeds benefiting Tanager Place LGBTQ Youth Center. The event, hosted by drag performer Portia Cass, is for adults only, but earlier in the day the brewery will host a drag bingo event for youths, in partnership with Tanager Place.

“Back in August, we hosted drag bingo to support Tanager Place. At the time kids who utilized the LGBTQ Youth Center had expressed interest, but it was 21-and-over only,” Thew co-owner Haley Flenker said. “We decided next time we did it we would do a show just for them and their allies and families.”

She said when word about the youth event got out, hate started pouring in. On Wednesday, negative reviews and vitriolic comments started flooding the brewery’s Facebook page. A few appear to be local but the vast majority appear to be from accounts from outside the area, Flenker said.

After the brewery posted online about the experience, community members and supporters responded to counter the messages, posting positive reviews and comments.

CRPrideFest board member April Mead, of Cedar Rapids, created a Facebook event, “Line the Walks With Pride,” to organize people to line the sidewalks around the brewery with rainbow flags, positive chalk messages and supporters as the youths arrive for the event Saturday.

“We will line the sidewalks alongside Thew with a warm welcome for the event attendees,” Mead told The Gazette in a Facebook message. “We are people who speak up when something isn’t right, and we show up to create a community that we want to live in, a community of graciousness and acceptance.”

Flenker said responses like that are heartening.

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“The community response has been amazing. It’s really, really heartwarming to see how many people support us and support Tanager Place,” Flenker said.

A fundraiser the brewery set up on Facebook for Tanager Place had netted over $2,200 as of Friday morning.

The first Pride bingo fundraiser the brewery hosted raised $1,500, Flenker said, so it has already surpassed that amount before the actual event. The event is free, with donations taken at the door, but required reservations.

“It’s getting really good attention for Tanager Place. Everything is completely antithetical to what the trolls would want,” she said. “It’s just bringing light to what they hate. ... It’s just been this kind of grassroots thing. The community support here has been fantastic.”

Comments: (319) 398-8339; alison.gowans@thegazette.com

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