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Provo bookstore owner defiant in the face of recent threats

By Curtis Booker - | Apr 15, 2024

Curtis Booker, Daily Herald

Tara Lipsyncki, a Utah drag queen and owner of Mosaics bookstore in Provo, is pictured Saturday, April 13, 2024, inside her business, which was the target of a bomb threat that day.

What was supposed to be a normal Saturday for Tara Lipsyncki turned into one filled with uncertainty and chaos.

Lipsyncki and her husband are owners of Mosaics Community Bookstore and Venue in Provo. The establishment is known as a safe space of support for the LGBTQ+ community. On Saturday morning, she was alerted by Provo police about a bomb threat targeted at her bookstore, the same day as their planned all-ages drag story hour, set for that evening.

“No bombs or suspicious packages were found,” is what the Provo Police Department initially stated in a press release. At this time, there are no suspects and the investigation is ongoing.

For Lipsyncki, a Utah drag queen, it’s not the first time she’s been a target. As the Deseret News reported, a similar incident happened last September ahead of a reading she was scheduled to do at a Salt Lake City bookstore.

“This is very similar to when the drag story hour that I was reading at the King’s English in Salt Lake was targeted by a bomb threat,” Lipsyncki told the Daily Herald.

On that morning, Salt Lake City police evacuated the King’s English bookstore due to what they initially called “suspicious circumstances” while K-9 officers trained to detect explosive materials searched the building. Though an “all-clear” was given by late morning, for safety reasons the owner opted to cancel the story time event and close for the day, according to KUTV.

In January of last year, during another all-ages drag event at a Salt Lake City wine and tea shop where Lipsyncki was performing, a group of armed protesters with the Proud Boys showed up outside, claiming children inside watching the performance were being “groomed,” SLUG magazine reported.

And that’s just a tip of the iceberg, as Lipsyncki says she’s had over half a dozen threats made toward her.

“In the last 18 months, I’ve had seven direct public threats on my life between events like this with guns or bombs or things. But I’ve received hundreds of personal ones,” she said.

Originally, she had plans to open a bar in Salt Lake County but decided to open a place where queer individuals in a conservative area like Provo can feel safe and welcomed.

Though this is first threat received at Mosaics, which has been open only a few months, personal online attacks against Lipsyncki made things financially taxing for the Provo bookstore in this early stage, according to a December post on her personal Instagram account.

Lipsyncki admits the threats are hurtful, but she refuses to back down. Mosaics continued on with its Saturday story time event, and the community showed up, showering the bookstore with support.

“There is a sense like most times when we have threats of violence or anything, the call from the community is is great,” Lipsyncki said. “There was support and it’s a very resounding ‘no.’ We’re not backing down; these events will continue.”

Earlier this year, the Salt Lake City office of the FBI launched a new program to encourage Utahns to report hate crimes among targeted groups. Law enforcement says they are seeing a spike in hate crimes across the state. Data from the Utah Department of Public Safety shows a consistent uptick in hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people in Utah County over the past four years.

But these incidents span beyond Utah. In 2023, FBI data shows a national rise in hate crimes toward LGBTQ+ people, among other marginalized groups.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah advocates for people of all backgrounds and beliefs to have the same rights and liberties granted to everyone by the U.S. Constitution. The organization emphasizes the fact that making threats of violence is not protected under the First Amendment.

“Violence and threats that are meant to intimidate LGBTQ+ people and to silence them and pushing them out of public light. The best thing LGBTQ+ (people) and their allies can do at that these things that are hosting performers is just show these violent extremists that it won’t work,” said ACLU of Utah Communications Director Aaron Welcher.

As for Lipsyncki, she plans to stay committed to Mosaics, despite Saturday’s incident.

She’s working with advocacy groups like the ACLU, Project Rainbow and others to collaborate on ways to strengthen their backbone in the wake of traumatic incidents like a bomb threat.

“We’re here and we’re getting stronger. We not backing down, we’re doubling and tripling down,” Lipsyncki said. “We’re in the process of opening the cafe section and once that happens, it will be 24/7 365 (days) here, providing resources and a safe space not just for the queer community, but any marginalized community here in Utah County.”


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