Protesters for and against comedian Dave Chappelle clashed outside the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis on Wednesday night, hours after the show’s original venue announced it was canceling its performance. Chappelle, who was accused of transphobia in his act, was already due to appear at the university on Thursday and Friday.
Following an online backlash and a Change.org petition calling for the performance to be cancelled, the venerable Minneapolis First Avenue club announced on social media on Wednesday that Chappelle’s appearance “has been canceled and is moving to Varsity. Theater”.
Without specifying details, the club went on to say: “To the staff, the artists and our community, we hear you and we are sorry. We know that we must hold ourselves to the highest standards and we know that we have you. dropped. We are not just a black box with people in it, and we understand that First Ave is not just a room, but meaningful beyond our walls. The First Avenue team and you have worked hard to make our sites the safest spaces in the country, and we will continue that mission.”
Chappelle, who made comments many took to be transphobic, reinforced those concerns in his 2021 Netflix special “The Closer,” which focused on transgender people. The comedian has repeatedly said he’s not transphobic and remembered a deceased transgender friend, while angering social media over jokes about trans sexuality and anatomy.
“Dave Chappelle has a history of being dangerous to trans people,” said the Change.org petition, which had less than 200 signatures Thursday but was widely reported, “and First Avenue has a duty to protect the community”.
On its official website, First Avenue said the club is “dedicated to promoting the artistic expression of diverse voices, old and new.”
“We respect that ‘safety’ and ‘security’ feel different to everyone. If you are the victim of harassment, abuse, sexual assault, or a wrongdoer interferes with your experience on our sites, please speak to a member of staff you feel comfortable talking to. Please do not remain silent.
Her statement on Wednesday went on to say, “We believe in diversity of voices and freedom of artistic expression, but in honoring this we have lost sight of the impact it would have. We know some will not I agree with this decision; you are invited to send comments.”
Chappelle has not commented publicly.