Members of the far-right group Proud Boys allegedly disrupted a reading event for kids hosted by a drag queen at a library in California on Saturday, according to police—and now, the incident is being investigated as a potential hate crime.
Drag queen Panda Dulce was reading a book to preschoolers at the San Lorenzo Library near Oakland as part of a Pride event when five men “described as members of the Proud Boys organization” interrupted the reading around 1:30 p.m., according to a press release from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.
The men “began to shout homophobic and transphobic slurs at the event organizer” and were “extremely aggressive with a threatening violent demeanor causing people to fear for their safety,” according to the press release.
Several of the men were wearing Proud Boys’ black and yellow colors and one wore a shirt that read “Kill Your Local Pedophile,” according to video obtained by NBC Bay Area. One man repeatedly called the event “sexual” while others flashed the “OK” hand gesture co-opted by the far-right, the video shows.
“It was all in front of the children, and it frightened them,” county librarian Cindy Chadwick told KTVU. “We had parents and children there who wanted to come to this event and chose to be there. And to have people come in and try to intimidate those folks and us from trying to do a program like this was just beyond the pale for me.”
“Drag Queen Story Hour” is an event created in San Francisco in 2015 which has since spread throughout the rest of the country, with chapters in 28 states and Washington D.C. as well as in seven other countries. The events have long been targeted by the far right—one reading in Spokane, Washington, in 2019 drew hundreds of protesters and about twice as many counterprotesters, while a SWAT team stood guard outside.
The event in San Lorenzo was open to the public, but in late May was shared by the right-wing Twitter account LibsofTikTok as part of a thread on similar events around the country. The account was temporarily locked by Twitter and the original tweet deleted in violation of the site’s rules, but tweets about the remain have not been deleted.
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office said it’s investigating the incident as a hate crime, as well as investigating “the annoying and harassing of children.”
After the police arrived and the interruption had ended, Panda Dulce finished the story time, according to BuzzFeed News.
“These kids deserve programming and role models that is accurately reflective of our diverse world,” Panda Dulce told BuzzFeed. “Not a regurgitated monolith authored by xenophobes because they’re too cowardly to accept reality."
The library said it will continue doing Pride events despite the disruption.
“Libraries are open to all and are places that foster inclusion of all our communities. Attempts to intimidate and silence others are not tolerated in libraries,” the library said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. “We are grateful to Panda Dulce for showing bravery and resilience and finishing the Storytime event.”
Gavin McInnes was a co-founder of VICE. He left the company in 2008 and has had no involvement since then. He later founded the Proud Boys in 2016.
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