Metro Weekly

Proud Boys Blocked by LGBTQ Demonstrators

Pro-LGBTQ demonstrators "shield" kids against the Proud Boys and their allies, who were protesting a Pride Month Family Story Time event.

A group of Proud Boys at a rally in Raleigh, N.C., in November 2020. – Photo: Anthony Crider, via Wikimedia.

LGBTQ activists “shielded” children attending a Pride Month Family Story Time event from far-right elements yelling homophobic and transphobic slurs by placing themselves in between the anti-LGBTQ protesters and families attending the event.

On June 26. the Roy and Helen Hall Library in McKinney, Texas, was hosting the event which promised to include reading from “Pride-positive” books, singing familiar songs, and social time where children would be able to play with toys and color. The event was primarily intended for families with preschool-aged children headed by LGBTQ couples, although it was open to the public to attend.

The event was well-advertised on social media, catching the notice of several right-wing, anti-LGBTQ groups — including the Proud Boys, a neofascist group that has been accused of espousing white supremacist ideas, the Three Percenters, an American militia group that protests “big government,” and socially conservative activists outraged by the idea of exposing children to the LGBTQ movement — rallied outside the library and began heckling attendees.

They started kind of saying different things, calling us groomers, pedophiles. They were fat-shaming people, they were calling other women whores and just horrible things,” a counter-protester told BuzzFeed News. “You could tell that they wanted to incite some type of violence. They just wanted to make us get angry so they could have something to use against us.”

But several community members were aware that the event could be targeted by far-right groups, and took steps to plan a counter-protest to any right-wing harassment that might be directed against the children who attended or their parents. They came and blocked off the right-wing protesters, holding signs and creating a corridor for children and their families to leave the library safely. 

“The word went out on the internet…and people showed up,” historian and counter-protester Michael Phillips said. “It was pretty well organized to make sure that the families bringing their children to this event weren’t harassed, weren’t harangued — basically to form a human shield.”

Police made no arrests, but did issue a citation to one protester that shoved another.

The McKinney protest by the Proud Boys and other right-wing groups illustrates the increasing hostility toward the LGBTQ community, which appears to be part of a larger societal backlash — fueled, in part, by QAnon-adjacent conspiracy theories about “big government” liberals wishing to harm children that have been embraced by political conservatives — against LGBTQ visibility.

Earlier this month, members of the Proud Boys disrupted a Drag Queen Story Hour event in California by barging into the library where it was held, and yelling slurs at parents in attendance and the drag queen reading to children, who had to be escorted out by security officers. A similar disruption occurred during a Pride Story Time in Wilmington, North Carolina, and at a library hosting a Drag Queen Story Hour in Sparks, Nevada, in which one of the right-wing protesters approached the library while carrying a gun, setting off a panic among counter-protesters. In Idaho, police arrested 31 white nationalists in Coeur d’Alene, accusing them of seeking to riot at a Pride event in a city park. 

Some politicians in Texas and Florida have even threatened to introduce bills that would criminalize parents who allow their children to attend Drag Queen Story Hours or similar events, on the grounds that such events are dangerous to children’s wellbeing. According to the sponsors of those proposals, parents could even have their custodial rights challenged if their children attend LGBTQ-themed events.

For those who attended the Pride Month Story Time event, the presence of the counter-protesters was a welcome, especially when contrasted with the hostility of the right-wing groups.

“It wasn’t about fighting the other side. It wasn’t about getting some viral clip. It was 100% about supporting those that were there for a free public event,” said Jesse Ringness, a documentary journalist and candidate for the state legislature who was one of those blocking the Proud Boys and their allies. “And it’s really disheartening to see a public library youth event for families drawing out armed militiamen. What did those armed militiamen expect to do with guns and pepper spray? I don’t understand.”

Kathryn Vargas, a Plano resident and straight mother of three boys, told BuzzFeed News she decided to take her children to the event, despite some concerns that right-wing protesters might create problems — just as they did when protesting a gay bar in Dallas that held a family-friendly drag event. She said she was grateful to have one of the counter-protesters escort her and her children to her car after the event, but lamented the fact that members of the LGBTQ community had to take such drastic steps to protect what was supposed to be a “safe space” for them.

There were protesters there that held up signs about protecting kids, but it was members of the LGBTQ community and allies that shielded my brown boys from these hate groups,” Vargas said. “They were the actual targets on Saturday. And yet, they absolutely would not flinch when hatred stared at them.”

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