Proud Boys Disrupts Drag Queen Story Hour Event, Provoking Hate Crime Investigation

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A children’s story hour at a California library was interrupted by several members of the Proud Boys on Saturday, prompting local authorities to launch a hate crime investigation as LGBTQ and anti-extremism advocates warn that many such threats by far-right extremists are intensifying.

About 25 miles from San Francisco across the East Bay, San Lorenzo Library was home to Drag Queen Story Hour when a group of five men broke up the event and began hurling homophobic and transphobic slurs at attendees, including the drag performer known as Panda Dulce, officials said. Drag Queen Story Hour, where performers read books to children, takes place in a part of the library where any member of the community can hold a meeting, according to Lt. Ray Kelly, spokesman for the county sheriff’s office. Alameda.

“The men were described as extremely aggressive with threatening violent behavior causing people to fear for their safety,” Kelly said in a statement. In addition to the hate crimes investigation, authorities have also launched an investigation into whether the Proud Boys’ actions “annoyed or harassed children,” which is a violation of the criminal code.

On Monday, detectives were still investigating. They were to turn over any evidence to the district attorney, who will determine whether hate crime charges should be brought against the Proud Boys, a far-right group with a history of violence.

With the Bay Area being the epicenter of the Pride movement, LGBTQ events are often uneventful and “run smoothly,” Kelly told The Washington Post on Monday.

“As far as hate and being a focal point, I haven’t seen that in the last few years. It’s kind of new,” Kelly said. He also noted that the Proud Boys members who disrupted Saturday’s reading event were not believed to be from the San Lorenzo community.

“We don’t have that many right-wing extremist groups coming out in the open in the Bay Area,” he said. “We believe there is a connected group in San Mateo County, so we believe these people crossed the bay for this event.”

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Kelly said investigators believe the confrontation was spurred by the Libs of TikTok Twitter account, which peddles anti-LGBTQ sentiment and propels inflammatory stories into the right-wing media sphere.

Across the country, extremist groups with a far-right or white supremacist ideology have increasingly coalesced around the targeting of LGBTQ events and individuals and sought to justify their attacks with false claims that gay and trans people – and sometimes perceived ideological opponents – prey on children. .

Dulce, who is one of the co-founders of the Drag Queen Story Hour program, said the men marched making white hand gestures and had their “cameras blazing”.

“They said, ‘Who brought the transexual? He’s a groomer. He’s a pedophile. Why are you bringing your children to this event? said Dulce in an interview with KGO-TV in San Francisco.

On the same day, in Idaho, police arrested 31 men allegedly affiliated with the white supremacist group Patriot Front, accused of plotting to riot at a local Pride event. Extremism researchers argue that hate groups that target LGBTQ-friendly organizations or individuals are driven by often overlapping beliefs in hyper-masculinity and archaic gender roles, fear of different people, and misplaced belief that queer groups accumulate power and privilege at their expense.

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Over the past two years, conservative activists and lawmakers have increasingly fought for transgender and LGBTQ inclusivity and visibility in girls’ sports, school curricula and public libraries.

Libraries across the United States have seen a surge in the number of attacks and protests against inclusive reading lists or book displays in recent years, while the American Library Association‘s Office of Intellectual Freedom has seen an overall increase in targeting of libraries in general, said Emily Knox, who teaches at the University of Illinois School of Information Sciences and is editor of ALA’s Journal of Intellectual Freedom and Privacy.

Libraries are also one of the few public faces of local government where individuals feel they can be heard, Knox said. Most people don’t go to city council meetings, Knox said, but lots of people do go to the library.

Gender identity classes, banned in some schools, are on the rise in others

Story hours have long been a staple of public library programming intended to promote literacy and engage young readers, although the Drag Queen Story Hour program is organized into local chapters and hosted by a local library.

Jonathan Hamilt, executive director of Drag Queen Story Hour, said the program garnered a strong positive response when it launched in 2015 for bringing fun and glamor to children’s story time, despite having always been rejected by some conservative groups.

Over the years, however, Hamilt said, the pushback has morphed into hate and is now directed more at drag culture than gay people in general.

“With right-wing conservatives and Republican groups outright saying they don’t like gay people seems homophobic. It’s not playing well,” he said. Tackling drag culture provides cover under the argument that drag queens reading to children are inappropriate or unwelcome.

Contrary to what opponents of Drag Queen Story Hour claim, Hamilt said, the group is not trying to persuade or “indoctrinate” anyone. It exists for people who want and need it, he said.

“Our program is for gay families and their allies,” he said. “It’s not our job to teach people [about] the difference between sex and gender, or to make people like us. The people who are against us, no matter how well we explain what we do, they are not going to understand or listen. »

Dulce, the drag performer who was allegedly harassed by Proud Boys at the San Lorenzo library, told KGO there was no reason to fear or hate them.

“I don’t want to hurt you,” Dulce said. “I just want to tell you a story. That’s it.”

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