2 arrested for protesting Gov. Bill Lee’s visit to Memphis amid expectation to sign controversial anti-drag bill

Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 8:36 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Two members of Memphis’ LGBTQ+ community were arrested at a ribbon-cutting for protesting Governor Bill Lee’s visit, and the controversial drag bill he said he will sign.

Governor Lee was one of many speakers at the ribbon cutting for the new Whitehaven YMCA. Moments after the governor approached the podium, a voice emerged from a megaphone saying “Bill Lee is a liar and a facist,” with gasps from the crowd.

The individual was then heard yelling “drag is not a crime,” before being forcibly removed from the room by Memphis police officers.

Action News 5 learned after the event that the voice came from John Wilbanks, a career drag performer who uses the stage name ‘Moth Moth Moth.’ We also confirmed Wilbanks was charged with disorderly conduct.

“I understand what I’ve done,” Wilbanks told Action News 5. “I’m fully willing to appear in court but I’m going to keep fighting. I’ll do it peacefully, but I will do it with my megaphone in hand.”

Salamander Pride, a trans woman from Memphis, was also arrested Wednesday after yelling “Bill Lee is a Nazi,” from outside of the YMCA.

Pride was then approached by multiple MPD officers. She asked them what she did and told them she was “just talking.” However, Pride was placed in handcuffs and carried to an MPD squad car where she was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Multiple viewers have asked if this was a violation of the two’s civil rights. We reached out to MPD about this. They said there is no offense classification for these charges; therefore, a copy of the misdemeanor citation will be available through the Shelby County Court Clerk’s Office.

During a media briefing inside of the YMCA, Governor Lee defended a yearbook photo that has resurfaced that appears to show him wearing women’s clothing.

“It’s ridiculous to try and conflate some high school skit to something as serious and potentially harmful to children,” said Governor Lee.

A local drag performer, Bella DuBalle, told Action News 5 that the governor’s remarks are baseless, and if they aren’t, she believes we would’ve heard proof of the claims by now.

“If they think we are a danger, I want to see facts,” DuBalle said. “Right now all I hear is baseless and hateful rhetoric.”

DuBalle added the rhetoric dehumanizes the LGBTQ+ community as a whole.

“We are doctors, lawyers, teachers. We are your neighbors and members of the community just like everyone else,” DuBalle said. “And these baseless accusations are absolutely deplorable.”

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