News (USA)

Rabid protestors & bomb scares get drag story hour canceled: “It just breaks my heart”

Princess Mocha reads a book during drag queen story hour at the annual Upstate Pride Festival in downtown Spartanburg on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023.
Princess Mocha reads a book during drag queen story hour at the annual Upstate Pride Festival in downtown Spartanburg on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023. Photo: MCKENZIE LANGE/ Staff / USA TODAY NETWORK

A drag queen story hour event at a Pennsylvania library was canceled over the weekend after multiple bomb threats, and the discovery of a suspicious package forced police to evacuate the building and two nearby city blocks.

Lancaster Pride’s “Drag Story Hour with Miss Amie” at the Lancaster Public Library had been the focus of intense local anti-LGBTQ+ opposition in recent weeks after Lancaster County Commissioners Ray D’Agostino and Josh Parsons, both Republicans, spoke out against the event on social media earlier this month. For two weeks in a row, opponents showed up at county commissioners’ meetings to voice their concerns. A member of the county’s Moms for Liberty chapter obtained a permit for a prayer vigil ahead of the event, and on Friday evening, dozens of people attended a prayer service lead by local pastors in a plaza near the library, according to local news reports.

At the same time, the increased attention on the event led to a wave of supporters signing up to attend, as well as increased security measures, LancasterOnline reported.

But on Saturday, police ordered the evacuation of the library and two surrounding blocks after a police dog reacted to a package that had been delivered to the library the day before during a sweep of the building. Lancaster Pride quickly announced that the drag story hour event had been canceled.

A spokesperson for the city later confirmed that the contents of the package were determined to be “benign,” but the city had “received additional written threats via email.” According to the Associated Press, police are still investigating “additional reported threats.”

“It just breaks my heart that we were trying to make a safe, fun event for our children, and because people disagree and don’t think we should exist, (they) had to ruin it for everybody,” Lancaster Pride director Tiffany Shirley said of the decision to cancel the event.

Lancaster Public Library executive director Lissa Holland said she was “really sad, very disappointed and angry, that leaders of this county turned this into saving the children from the library and we are having to cancel this event because of safety threats.”

“It was supposed to be fun, and happy and great, and loving and caring kind—all the good things,” Christopher Paolini, who was scheduled to read to kids in drag as Miss Amie Vanité, said. “And somebody had to go and create what was a safe space and make it dangerous, not just for children. But for everybody.”

The Lancaster Public Library’s event is just the latest to be targeted amid a rise in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric both online and from right-wing politicians and media figures in recent years. Conservatives falsely contend that allowing children to attend drag queen story hour events and family-friendly Pride performances amounts to “indoctrination” and “grooming.” That false narrative has led to protests and disruptions at libraries and other venues across the country, in some cases by armed members of far-right hate groups. Recent reporting has even linked anti-LGBTQ+ hate influencer Chaya Raichik’s social media posts to real threats directed at the schools, libraries, hospitals, and individuals she has targeted via her influential Libs of TikTok account.

Paolini, however, told local reporters that he remains defiant in the face of opposition to drag queen story hour events. “It just hurts my heart that it came to this,” he said. “I’m not going to stop what I’m doing. This program is too important for too many people.”

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