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Protestors call for resignation of the Walton Arts Center's CEO

After the decision for the Walton Arts Center not to host a drag show that would allow minors, protestors ask CEO Peter Lane to resign.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — On the evening of Saturday, May 19, dozens of protestors gathered outside of the Walton Arts Center to call for the CEO of the Walton Arts Center to resign.

Caitlin with the group Arkansans for Social Justice says she is supportive of the board members who resigned due to the Walton Arts Center's decision.

"Resigning demonstrates integrity and we are absolutely in support of those folks. We'd also like to add that Peter Lane and the rest of the exec. leadership team would follow suit."

They say the purpose of Saturday's event is to stand up for the LGBTQ+ community.

"Leave the queer community alone," Caitlin said in response to all of the anti-trans and LBGTQ+ movements and legislation. "There are bigger problems."

The Walton Arts Center gave two statements explaining why it chose not to host the event. In its first statement, it cited "the divisive political rhetoric at this time." 

Earlier this year, Arkansas lawmakers tried to pass a bill banning drag performances in the presence of minors.

"Bigoted and homophobic policies are not tolerated in this community," Caitlin said. "We also want new leadership that is more in touch with the needs of our community."

"I'm so happy to live in a city that will support a community to protest," said protestor Ashton Williams.

In a statement about the protest and resignations, NWA Pride's Director Richard Gathright wrote "Our team is working hard on providing a great 2023 Northwest Arkansas pride celebration. Pride is also a protest, and we stand in solidarity with everyone fighting the ongoing struggle for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging."

"Parents, you have the right to say 'I don't want my child there,' but you don't have the right to ban everyone else," Caitlin said.

5NEWS reached out to the Walton Arts Center for a response to the protest and the call for its CEO to be removed. The center referred us to its previous statement which says in part, "We understand that NWA Equality and the community it serves are well aware of safety concerns, as that is something they regrettably have to deal with on a daily basis," adding that it regrets its decision. 

NWA Pride's Youth Zone event is still going on this year. It's just happening at the Fayetteville Town Center.

Credit: KFSM

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