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Dave Chappelle Calls Minneapolis Protestors a “Transgender Hit Squad”

After they gathered in front of Chappelle's relocated show in Minneapolis

dave chappelle minneapolis trans rights protestors hit squad
Dave Chappelle, photo via Mathieu Bitton/Netflix
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    After Minneapolis venue First Avenue canceled Dave Chappelle’s scheduled standup set following backlash to his transphobic jokes, the show was moved to the city’s Varsity Theater on Wednesday, July 20th. While fans waited in line at the new venue, about 50 protestors gathered in support of trans rights, and they didn’t go unnoticed by the comedian.

    A reviewer for the Star Tribune noted Chappelle made jokes about “a small group of transgender lunatics” before delivering the punchline: “I can see a transgender hit squad coming from a mile away.” He also reportedly joked that the protestors were hired by his wife, “determined to suck the joy out of his life.”

    Earlier in the show, Chappelle reportedly appeared “sympathetic” in response to First Avenue’s predicament after hearing the children of some staffers had been threatened, though he hoped the club would take a stand in the future.

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    First Avenue canceled Chappelle’s show just hours before he was slated to take the stage. “To staff, artists and our community, we hear you and we are sorry,” the venue wrote in a statement. “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 Ave is not just a room, but meaningful beyond our walls. We believe in diverse voices and the freedom of artistic expression, but in honoring that, we lost sight of the impact this would have.”

    In his Emmy-nominated Netflix special The Closer, Chappelle defended J.K. Rowling and other Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs), saying, “They look at trans women the way we Blacks might look at Blackface.” He also seemed to confuse gender identity with biological sex.

    Organizations such as GLAAD and the National Black Justice Coalition criticized Chappelle for the special, which also caused a major controversy within Netflix itself when a trans employee was fired after staging a walkout in protest of the streamer’s decision to platform Chappelle. Fellow comedian and Emmy nominee Jerrod Carmichael has also called Chappelle’s transphobia “an odd hill to die on.”

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