Dave Chappelle was originally due to perform at the iconic First Avenue. Citing public backlash and criticism from employees and the public, First Ave management moved the comedy show to Varsity Theatre.
Protestors cited Chappelle’s extensive history of discriminatory jokes at the expense of Transgender and non-binary people. Many of those jokes end up in Chappelle’s Netflix specials.
“I don't think it's OK that transphobic people have a platform as large as this to dehumanize trans people,” said a protestor named Chuck. “Where in 2021 it was the deadliest year on record for trans and non-binary people and that's intimately correlated with a culture that widely dehumanizes and you know belittles the existence and experience of trans people.”
In a statement posted to Twitter, First Avenue management said it believes in diverse voices and the freedom of artistic expression, but in honoring that, it lost sight of the impact this would have.
A protestor named Jason said that they weren’t impressed by the statement, and instead saw it as an empty gesture.
“I think it was pretty pointedly set up to say that they ‘canceled’ the show and actually the show wasn't canceled,” said Jason. “I think it was also interesting that last night while we were here Sonia Grover who is the head Booker for First Ave and Dayna Frank who is the owner, both went to the show.”
First Ave management denied requests for an interview. Kris, who has attended events at Varsity Theatre in the past, said she came out to protest for the people in her life.
“I'm here because I am standing up for Trans rights,” she said. “There are a lot of trans people in my life that I really care about and I would not feel OK with myself if I didn't show up for them in this moment.”
Tensions escalated after Chappelle’s final performance on Friday night, with police spraying mace and arresting five protestors. All protestors were eventually released without charges.