California police are investigating after a group of men allegedly interrupted a Drag Queen Story Hour at a library in the San Francisco Bay Area. The men, who police believe to be part of the far-right Proud Boys, reportedly yelled homophobic and anti-LGBTQ+ slurs.
On Saturday afternoon, police responded to calls around 1:30 p.m. that there was a disturbance at the San Lorenzo Library during the story reading, according to a Facebook post by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.
Authorities said that a group of five men had disrupted the event, which was attended by children, parents, and community members.
“The men began to shout homophobic and transphobic slurs at the event organizer. The men were described as extremely aggressive with a threatening violent demeanor causing people to fear for their safety,” the sheriff’s office wrote. “An active hate crime investigation is underway as is an investigation into the annoying and harassing of children.”
The police added, “As we celebrate Pride Month, we will be swift in our response to any incidents where there are threats to harm members of this community.”
The host, drag queen Panda Dulce, told local public radio station KQED that when the men came in shouting at her she was eventually escorted out of the room by a security guard for her safety.
"I didn’t know if they were armed. I was only acutely aware of the fact that neither myself nor any of the other librarians were," Dulce, whose name is Kyle Casey Chu, told the station. Dulce added in a since-deleted Instagram post that the men "totally freaked out the kids. They got right in our faces. They jeered. They attempted to escalate to violence."
Authorities did not make any arrests at the library, telling KQED they did not about the organized nature of the disturbance until afterward.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the Proud Boys a hate group. It describes the Proud Boys as being known for its anti-Muslim and misogynist rhetoric. Leaders of the group are known for white nationalist memes and having connections to extremists.
Saturday’s story hour had been highlighted by the far-right Twitter account LibsOfTikTok, which has been targeting the LGBTQ+ community. The social media account has over 1 million followers.
Before being deleted, the account posted, “They say it's innocent. They say it's just about inclusion and acceptance. They say no one is trying to confuse, corrupt, or sexualize kids. They lie,” according to KQED.
The San Lorenzo Library Drag Queen Story Hour was highlighted on a thread about family-friendly drag events in the country.
Drag Queen Story Hour’s executive director, Jonathan Hamilt, said in a joint statement with several organizations, “As many of the books that we read to children make perfectly clear: Words and actions have consequences. It is unfathomable that adults would terrorize children and our drag performers at story hours, and we are livid that conservative politicians and right-wing media are increasingly inciting violence, rather than working to end it. We remain committed to creating safe opportunities for children to learn about the diversity of the world around them and express their most fabulous selves.”
In recent weeks, several Republican lawmakers have come out saying that they would either introduce or support legislation banning children from drag events. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — who signed the state’s “don’t say gay” bill into law — said last week that he would sign legislation taking away parental rights of parents who take their kids to these events.
Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, added that targeting a children’s story hour is “reprehensible.”
“No child, family, or person should ever be subjected to this inexcusable and hostile behavior,” Ellis said. “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. Every reasonable person should demand their elected officials speak out against this incident and this rhetoric. We must hold lawmakers accountable to keeping all kids safe from real harm.”
Over the weekend, 31 members of the far-right, neo-Nazi group the Patriot Front were arrested over a plot to disrupt a Pride celebration in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. They were found out thanks to a tipster who called in suspicious activity. They had gathered in the back of a U-Haul truck dressed in riot gear complete with shields, masks, and smoke grenades.