One month after securing a seat on the Broward County School Board, Brenda Fam was photographed on December 3 speaking at the "Protect the Children" rally organized by conservative groups Moms for Liberty Miami, Florida Fathers for Freedom, and Gays Against Groomers.
Fliers for the event, which was promoted on the far-right outlet One America News Network, feature a cartoon of parents holding up an umbrella to shield their children from a rainbow, a symbol of gay pride.
The event was advertised as a rally against "a radicalized sexual curriculum," "child grooming," and "gender affirming care."
In photos posted online, Fam can be seen standing on a beach wall and speaking before a small crowd, which included uniformed members of the far-right Proud Boys group.
Fam, a lawyer and part-time flight attendant from Davie, won her election against Steven Julian in November. She is one of nine Broward County School Board members and represents District 6, which encompasses Weston and Davie, among other communities in southwest Broward County.
VIDEO THREAD: On Saturday, Proud Boys rallied with the groups Gays Against Groomers and Moms for Liberty held a rally in Fort Lauderdale titled "Protect the Children."— Ford Fischer (@FordFischer) December 4, 2022
Video in thread by @davedeckerphoto for @N2Sreports pic.twitter.com/mzrrZ9RPw2
According to her campaign site, her main platform points are "family values," "academic excellence and transparency," and "safety and security for students and staff," which she defines in part as "the ability to express a differing opinion without judgment, retaliation, ridicule, the threat of being canceled, or negative consequences."
In a pre-election Sun Sentinel profile, Fam voiced support for HB 1557, the Parental Rights in Education Act AKA the "Don't Say Gay" bill, which prohibits teachers from discussing sexuality with students in public schools before fourth grade. Fam claimed in the interview that teachers are indoctrinating students with leftist ideas, consciously and unconsciously.
"Students readily admit that they are afraid of being canceled, including socially, if they do not go along. Indoctrination is occurring as many students eventually succumb to peer pressure," she told the paper.
She also campaigned on the removal of "obscene and age-inappropriate" books and lessons from the classroom.
Fam declined New Times' request to speak about her attendance at the rally.
Broward-based politician and consultant Elijah Manley, who ran for a Broward County School Board seat in 2018, says Fam falls neatly in line with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan to imprint his self-styled anti-woke agenda on local school boards.
Manley says he previously believed Fam would "moderate herself a little bit from the far-right rhetoric" once she was sworn in.
“But I think her attendance at this event, and her speaking at this event, shows her true character and what she'll be doing for the next four years,” says Manley, who's coming off a loss in the Democratic primary for Florida House of Representatives District 94.
The trope about America's youth supposedly being groomed en masse to become gay, bisexual, or transgender is far from new, though it has become a central theme of right-wing activists in the recent classroom culture wars. The concept has been used for decades to provoke mistrust against the gay community.
In Florida, the trope dates back at least to the 1970s when singer-turned-activist Anita Bryant spearheaded the anti-gay "Save Our Children" campaign in response to an ordinance granting gay people housing and employment protections. Bryant's movement, born in Dade County, aimed to limit the legal rights of LGBTQ people under the guise of protecting the nation's children.
Anthony Raimondi, rally attendee representing Gays Against Groomers, said in the time leading up to the event that the rally was not directed against trans or gay people.
"Well look, anybody can be a groomer. It's not just the LGBTQ community. Anybody can try and brainwash a child or groom a child," Raimondi said.
Several tense arguments broke out at the rally over the "groomer" terminology, including an exchange between Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, who is gay, and right-wing activists.
"When you start using inflammatory words like groomers, it means more than just what you're saying," Trantalis argued.
Counter-protesters gathered across the street from the beach and held a sign stating, "These queers bash back" amid chants of "Erasers are for blackboards, not for people." [Editor's note: This sentence was updated to correct the description of the wording in a sign held up by counter-protesters.]
The Anti-Defamation League classified the rally as part of a wave of events with anti-LGBTQ messages that took place over the weekend.
Near an arts festival that featured a drag performer in Orlando, an openly bigoted gathering was held Saturday evening, in which men carried Nazi flags and a banner that read, “Drag queens are pedophiles with AIDS."
Meanwhile, in Ohio, a Unitarian Church was forced to cancel a Drag Queen Story Hour event after it was targeted by Proud Boys and other far-right groups.