Protesters for and against comedian Dave Chappelle squared off in front of Minneapolis' Varsity Theater Wednesday night, hours after the original venue for that show had announced it was canceling his performance. Chappelle, who has been accused of transphobia in his act, already had been set to appear at the Varsity on Thursday and Friday.
Following an online backlash and a Change.org petition calling for the performance's cancellation, the venerable Minneapolis club First Avenue announced on social media Wednesday that Chappelle's appearance "has been canceled and is moving to the Varsity Theater."
Without specifying details, the club went on to say, "To staff, artists, and our community, we hear you and we are sorry. 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. The First Avenue team and you have worked hard to make our venues the safest spaces in the country, and we will continue with that mission."
Chappelle, who has made comments many have taken to be transphobic, reinforced those concerns in his 2021 Netflix special "The Closer," which focused on transgender people. The comic repeatedly has said he is not transphobic and has reminisced about a late transgender friend, while also drawing social-media ire over jokes about trans sexuality and anatomy.
"Dave Chappelle has a record of being dangerous to trans people," said the Change.org petition, which as of Thursday had gathered fewer than 200 signatures but was widely reported upon, "and First Avenue has a duty to protect the community."
On its official website, First Avenue has long stated the club "is dedicated to promoting artistic expression in diverse voices old and new."
"We honor that 'safe' and 'safety' feel different for everyone. If you experience harassment, abuse, sexual assault, or if a perpetrator of harm is interfering with your experience at our venues, please approach a staff member to whom you feel comfortable talking. Please do not stay silent."
Its statement Wednesday went on to say, "We believe in diverse voices and the freedom of artistic expression, but in honoring that, we lost sight of the impact this would have. We know there are some who will not agree with this decision; you are welcome to send feedback."
Chappelle has not commented publicly.