A Drag Queen Story Hour at a library in North Carolina was disrupted by members of the local Proud Boys group, but reports differ as to the severity of the protest and the actions of the local sheriff.
The incident took place Tuesday in a private room at the Pine Valley Library in Wilmington where local drag queens were reading stories to children. Deputies from the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office (NHCSO) were called after reported members of the Cape Fear Proud Boys demonstrated outside the library. The situation escalated when several masked protesters entered the library, allegedly uttering antigay slurs at folks in the library, and attempted to enter the room where the Drag Queen Story Hour was taking place. Some attendees claimed the sheriff escorted the protestors to the room, a charge the authorities strongly denied.
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According to a statement from the NHCSO, a supervisor had “positioned himself between the private room holding the reading and the demonstrators” and informed the group there were not permitted to enter the room where the story hour was taking place. The statement went on to say no protestors were allowed entry into the room and that following the reading “all the participants left the library with no incident.”
A statement from the library echoed the claims of the NHCSO.
“The members of the protesting group were not allowed in the closed room where the event had been held and families were still in, and there was no disturbance inside the building,” Linda Thompson, the county’s chief diversity, equity, and inclusivity officer, said in a statement. “Sheriff’s deputies and library staff also provided help to parents and kids who were still in attendance (some had left already) on where to exit the library following the event. Parents and children were not in danger at any time.”
Local activists Angie Kahney, Ashley Daniels, and Sandy Eyles told a different version of events to local public radio station WHQR, saying a man wearing a ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ hat entered the library and unsuccessfully tried to enter the reading room. They said he left the library and a group of seven to eight demonstrators entered the library and headed to the room where the reading was taking place. Kahney said she heard the men making disparaging remarks, calling the event “wicked” and decrying “using taxpayer money for pornography” among other statements.
Kahney wrote on the NHCSO's Facebook post, "This is an absolute lie and you know it...Many of us witnessed with our own eyes the NHCSO escort the Proud Boys (bc let's call them who they are) and their klan into the building straight to the room where children as young as 1 were with their parents, while they shouted obscenities and threats. Only library staff and a handful of child advocates were able to intervene. This group, along with the officers who appear in photos and on camera, were with them as they taunted parents and children both in the library in their personal tour with NHCSO and outside."
She added that the children and parents who attended were escorted out the side door of the library.
Others also claimed the demonstrators were escorted to the room by a member of the NHCSO.
Another denied the event was peaceful and limited to protesting the story time hour.
“This is definitely not how it happened,” a commenter who claimed to be in attendance posted online. “And they didn’t limit themselves to harassing who they thought may be in the storytime. It was all library patrons I saw.”
While the events of the incident remain in dispute, Thompson made clear the library and county are welcoming and affirming for all.
“The county celebrates all people, cultures, genders, and gender identities and will continue to do that through our events, programs, and actions,” Thompson said in her statement.