Authorities in the San Francisco Bay area are investigating a possible hate crime after a group of men stormed into a library where a drag queen was hosting a children’s reading event, and allegedly shouted homophobic and anti-LGBTQ+ slurs.
Panda Dulce was hosting a Drag Queen Story Hour at the San Lorenzo Library on Saturday in celebration of pride month when a group of five men disrupted the event, shouting “tranny” and “pedophile”. The men “attempted to escalate to violence”, Dulce said, and “totally freaked out all of the kids”.
Law enforcement believes the group is affiliated with the far-right Proud Boys. The incident came after Joe Biden recently warned of “rising hate and violence” targeting LGBTQ+ people. Over the weekend, police in Idaho arrested 31 members of a white supremacist group who planned to riot at a pride event there.
There are several drag queen story hour programs in the Bay Area, which organizers say offer kid-friendly entertainment while teaching children about diversity and community. “I thought the closet was the loneliest place, but I was wrong. It was being out in the open, vulnerable and alone. Drag Queen Story Hour is so important to me, and for our youth, because it converts our differences from shame into power,” Dulce told the Guardian in 2017.
But the story hours have long faced backlash and criticism from the right and conservative publications, who claim the events are indoctrinating children. This weekend’s story time event was shared by Libs of TikTok, a rightwing anti-LGBTQ+ social media account with more than a million followers, SFGate reported.
Deputies responded to the library at about 1:30pm after receiving reports of a disturbance at the reading for preschool-aged children, said Lt Ray Kelly with the Alameda county sheriff’s office. The group was described as “extremely aggressive with a threatening violent demeanor causing people to fear for their safety”, Kelly said in a press release.
No arrests have been made, no one was physically harmed, and sheriff’s officials are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime and harassment of children, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Authorities said the five men involved were wearing black and yellow, colors associated with the far-right Proud Boys group, which can be seen in video of the disruption. “It appears the group of men may be affiliated with the Proud Boys organization,” said Kelly.
Kelly said the sheriff’s office plans to post deputies at future story-hour events at the library “to deal with any disruptors”.
The incident was first reported by KQED.
In Idaho, more than two dozen members of a white supremacist group were arrested near a pride event. Police say the 31 Patriot Front members had riot gear and were seen loading people into a U-Haul at a hotel parking lot in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. “I have no doubt in my mind, they were coming downtown to riot,” said Lee White, the chief of the Coeur d’Alene police department, according to the New York Times.
Those arrested came from across the US, including Texas, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Illinois, Wyoming and Virginia, as well as the Pacific north-west, the Times reported. Among those arrested was Thomas Rousseau of Grapevine, Texas, who has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as the 23-year-old who founded the group.