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Drag Queen Story Hour disrupted by men shouting slurs, authorities say

The Alameda County Sheriff's Office says it has opened a hate crime investigation into the incident, which took place at an event for children and families.

For the second time this weekend, an LGBTQ+ event was targeted by men whom law enforcement described as linked to a hate group.

The Alameda County Sheriff's Office in California said Sunday that it has opened a hate crime investigation into the Saturday afternoon disruption at San Lorenzo Library, about 25 miles southeast of San Francisco.

The office said in a statement that five men whom witnesses described as members of the Proud Boys disrupted an edition of "Drag Queen Story Hour," an LGBTQ+ education franchise for children and families that started in San Francisco in 2015.

The office added that the men wore clothing and logos that were consistent with the Proud Boys, a white nationalist group linked to the January 6 violent siege at the U.S. Capitol.

The men, it said, shouted "homophobic and transphobic slurs at the event organizer," according to the statement from sheriff's Lt. Ray Kelly.

"The men were described as extremely aggressive with a threatening violent demeanor causing people to fear for their safety," he said.

No arrests were made at the scene, Kelly said.

The one-hour event Saturday was scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m., with Drag Queen Story Hour performer Panda Dulce billed as its on-site leader. "We will hear stories, sing songs, and have fun," the library's promotion said.

It said that the hour would be curated for preschool-age children, but that older children were welcome.

Protesters disrupted a Drag Queen Story Hour on Sunday, June 12, 2022, in the Lorenzo Library in California's Bay Area, yelling "homophobic and transphobic slurs at the event organizer," the Alameda County Sheriff's Office said. A hate crime investigation has been opened.
Protesters disrupted a Drag Queen Story Hour on Sunday, June 12, 2022, in the Lorenzo Library in California's Bay Area, yelling "homophobic and transphobic slurs at the event organizer," the Alameda County Sheriff's Office said. A hate crime investigation has been opened.

Organizers say on their website that "DQSH captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models."

In a statement, Drag Queen Story Hour decried what it described as conservative politicians who have made an issue out of the existence of LGBTQ+ people, particularly trans people, to foment division and incite violence.

The chronology of the statement suggests that Drag Queen Story Hour believes the alleged agitators Saturday were following the lead of these leaders and would-be officeholders.

The group of purported Proud Boys, organizers said, "claims to 'protect children," yet "loves to disrupt children’s events with homophobia and transphobic slurs."

The nonprofit said the men were "yelling, screaming, inciting violent threats, [and] traumatizing children and their families."

The Alameda County Library, of which the San Lorenzo location is a satellite, said in a statement that the incident would not deter its mission of inclusive education.

"Attempts to intimidate and silence others are not tolerated in libraries," it said. "We are grateful to Panda Dulce for showing bravery and resilience and finishing the Storytime event. We will continue to celebrate Pride Month and offer programming that reflects the diverse voices and experiences of all our communities."

Kelly of the sheriff's office said its investigation would also probe the potential "annoying and harassing of children."

News of the disruption came a day after 31 people believed to be associated with the white nationalist group Patriot Front were arrested near an event called Pride in the Park in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

Police said the suspects, many found inside a U-Haul moving truck, were booked on suspicion of conspiracy to riot. Among those jailed was a man with the same name as Patriot Front's Texas-based founder, Thomas Ryan Rousseau.

On Sunday the organization GLAAD also blamed conservative campaign rhetoric and legislation for the presence of far-right agitators at the Pride Month event in Idaho.

"Anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and the nearly 250 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced this year are responsible for this dangerous climate," President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement.

On Sunday, Ellis responded to the Drag Queen Story Hour disruption by email.

"Storming a children’s story hour is reprehensible," she said. "No child, family or person should ever be subjected to this inexcusable and hostile behavior. This rhetoric and incitement of violence against drag performers, LGBTQ people and allies can be directly attributed to politicians and their enablers spreading misinformation and vile rhetoric and must stop immediately." 

In 2019 an event called Drag Queen Storytime inspired national headlines when protesters amassed during its hourlong reading at a Chula Vista, Calif., library.

In early 2020, "Saturday Night Live" spoofed the controversy with host RuPaul performing as a host reader at a San Diego-area library.

"Reading is throwing shade," RuPaul said, " — a brutal insult wrapped inside a glorious wordplay."

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