Two months after UpRising Bakery and Cafe in Lake in the Hills was the subject of protests and even vandalism, the harassment, protests and counter-protests have continued and the owner says she fears for her business and for herself.
A number of protesters, both against and in favor of the bakery, again gathered outside the store on Saturday to voice their opinions on the upcoming drag shows the bakery has planned this month.
James Gustafson, who said he resides in Arizona but had lived in Lake in the Hills for 30 years, said he went to UpRising Bakery on Friday and Saturday because he disagreed with the children are invited to such events.
Family drag shows at UpRising Bakery first came under fire in July ahead of a scheduled show later that month.
The cafe has been the subject of a series of fake negative reviews, angry phone calls and social media posts. Vandalism at the site has included feces left at the door and a sign aimed at employees with a threatening message.
There was also an incident with a man who walked into the store and spat on the bakery window.
Then, the day before the show, the windows of the bakery were smashed and homophobic slurs spray-painted on its exterior.
Joseph Collins, 24, of Alsip, has pleaded not guilty to hate crime and other charges associated with the vandalism
The show finally took place on a rescheduled date in August, and the bakery also planned a drag trivia night for Saturday and a drag dinner and show for September 24, according to its Facebook page.
Children are allowed to attend the Sept. 24 show for $20, according to Eventbrite.
Supporters of the bakery also rallied on Saturday and by the afternoon outnumbered its detractors. Each side mocked the other throughout the day, with passengers in the cars expressing their support for one or the other.
Candice Neely of Algonquin had rainbows on her vehicle as one of her children waved a Pride flag. She describes herself as an ally of the LGBTQ community.
Neely said she disagrees with the idea of children being put at risk by these types of events and said that if someone doesn’t want their child to attend, then “n ‘don’t go’. She said she thought drag was an art form and it was up to her whether she wanted to expose her children to it.
“We go to an open and assertive church and we’re very denominational,” she said. “I think it’s important for faith-based people to come out on the other side. Love is love, and we don’t judge. We support everyone.
Protests and harassment have not gone away since the July tumult, bakery owner Corinna Bendel-Sac said on Friday.
Bendel-Sac said his customers were harassed and children were abused inside the bakery. The employees quit because of the harassment.
“I fear for my business and for myself,” Bendel-Sac said. “They actively go out to people and tell them to stop supporting my business.”
Algonquin’s Ashley Rufino said that as a small business owner herself, her “heart goes out” to the bakery.
“If you don’t like it, you don’t have to go,” she said.
For Eric Stare, an Elgin Township board member who was present with Gustafson, it was about protecting children, he said. He added that he supports an adult’s decision to do what he wants.
Gustafson said he personally doesn’t agree with drag shows, but said adults have the right to do whatever they want.
“This tape is not a porn hub,” Gustafson said. “I’m a little troubled that the village will allow them.”
Asked about a parent’s rights to take their child to a drag event, Gustafson said a line had to be drawn. He equated this to child abuse.
“Why do we even have to ask questions like that?” he said. “Doesn’t it automatically register in your mind that it’s wrong?”
He said he and others were encouraging people to attend the Lake in the Hills Village board meeting on Tuesday to “get your voice heard.”
Gustafson said he plans to be at the bakery every day for the foreseeable future: “I already rented a tent for the winter with a heater. This is my new home.