Dave Chappelle show CANCELED at Minneapolis theater after transgender rights protesters show up to confront fans


Neal Justin, John Reinan

Star Tribune

The summer heat jumped a few degrees outside the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis Wednesday night, as fans lining up to see comedian Dave Chappelle were met by about 50 protesters who shouted, chanted and waved signs in support of transgender rights.

Both sides engaged in animated and sometimes profane exchanges, at times standing only inches apart on the sidewalk in front of the theater.

“I wasn’t expecting these kinds of numbers,” said Aaron of Minneapolis, a showgoer who was hit by an egg thrown from a passing vehicle that onlookers believed wasn’t part of the protest.

“Trans rights matter!” the protesters chanted, with some asking fans to show support by leaving the line for the event, which wound its way for more than three blocks through Dinkytown.

A woman in line for Dave Chappelle’s show at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis on Wednesday evening had a heated exchange with protesters who viewed the comedian as transphobic. The woman declined to be identified.

The show was hastily moved to the Varsity from First Avenue after the music club announced that it was scrapping the show, just hours before the comic was scheduled to take the stage at 8 p.m. Chappelle was already booked to appear at the Varsity on Thursday and Friday.

In a Twitter post, First Avenue didn’t spell out the specific reasons for the cancellation. But it’s clear that it was reacting to harsh criticism from those who felt the club shouldn’t be supporting someone they believe has used his platform to make fun of the transgender community.

“To staff, artists and our community, we hear you and we are sorry,” the post read. “We know we must hold ourselves to the highest standards, and we know we let you down. We are not just a black box with people in it and we understand that First Avenue is not just a room, but meaningful beyond our walls. The First Avenue team and you have worked to make our venues the safest spaces in the country and we will continue with that mission. We believe in diverse voices and the freedom of artistic expression, but in honoring that we lost sight of the impact this would have. We know there are some who will not agree with this decision; you are welcome to send feedback.”

“Black men are held to a disproportionate standard,” said one showgoer who engaged in a heated back-and-forth with protesters lasting several minutes. “I’d like people to take all facts into consideration before making a sweeping judgment.”

A protester, who goes by only Badger, said that 2021 was the deadliest year on record for trans people who were subjected to physical assaults.

“Joking about them and dehumanizing them only adds to the danger,” Badger said.

The backlash against Chappelle didn’t deter his fans. The show sold out in less than five minutes, largely because tickets were scooped up by brokers. That meant most patrons had to pay at least double the original $129 ticket price.

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