A Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles concert was evacuated on Saturday following a bomb threat.
Nearly a thousand people turned out for a 2pm matinee of “The Pink Carpet: LGBTQ and The Silver Screen,” a tribute to Hollywood’s history of queer representation, with openly gay Will and Grace star Leslie Jordan joining the massive ensemble. The performance, however, was abruptly cut short after just one song.
Attendees were informed to “find the nearest exit and leave the building,” as confused audience members shuffled out onto the sidewalk of the Alex Theatre in Glendale.
Officers from the local Los Angeles Police Dept. quickly responded to reports of a bomb inside the 83-year-old venue, a historic Art Deco landmark known for hosting vaudeville performances and screening silent movies in the early days of film. Police shut down Brand Boulevard as canine units searched the building.
The Gay Men’s Chorus claimed on Facebook that they were taking every precaution to ensure attendees’ safety.
“Out of an abundance of caution, the theater has been evacuated,” reported the choral group, which first launched back in 1979. “In our near 40 year history we do not believe this has happened until today. Everyone is safe. WE WILL NOT BE DETERRED.”
Due to the bomb threat, for everyone affected by the cancelled Saturday 2pm performance, seating WILL be available for tonight’s 8pm and Sunday’s 2pm performances! pic.twitter.com/UZXFCYU5DC
— Gay Men's Chorus LA (@GMCLA) June 23, 2018
Officials with the LAPD and L.A. County Sheriff’s Office were reportedly unable to locate an incendiary device at the scene.
Although law enforcement officials cleared the building within two hours of the report, the 2pm showing was effectively cancelled. Ticket holders were informed, though, that if they brought their stub to the 8pm show on Saturday night, their purchase would be honored.
The Saturday evening performance reportedly went off without a hitch, as did a 2pm show scheduled for Sunday.
The LAPD and L.A. County Sheriff’s Office have not stated whether police plan to investigate the incident as a hate crime, following a thwarted terrorist attack on the 2016 Pride March in Los Angeles and threats made against LGBTQ centers in L.A. and Sacramento in recent years.
While organizers with the Gay Men’s Chorus do not yet have evidence to suggest it was a hate crime, many cited America’s divisive political climate.
“I hope it wasn’t a hate crime, but let’s not be naive,” Executive Director Jonathan Weedman told CBS L.A. “Let’s not kid ourselves; we’re an LGBTQ organization, and I hope that is not the case, but I would not be surprised.”
Since Donald Trump’s election to the presidency in 2016, there have been a wave of attacks against LGBTQ community spaces. Centers in the District of Columbia, Florida, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin have been vandalized, tagged with homophobic messages in graffiti, or desecrated in drive-by shootings.
Police have not named a suspect in the Gay Men’s Chorus attack, but witnesses told the Los Angeles Blade, a local LGBTQ newspaper, about a “suspicious” figure spotted during the evacuation.
“We saw a very suspicious man in his late 20 come out of the theater—skinny, I would say 5’10 or 5’11,” wearing a white T-shirt, black jeans,” said choral member Mark Jackson. “He stood there in front of that restaurant, staring at the whole crowd then went down the street and stared again. Then security came out and he left.”
“[T]o me, he looked like someone who was enjoying the chaos he created; he looked not healthy, he looked weird,” Jackson added.