Officials and proponents offer differing versions after Proud Boys disrupted NC’s Pride Storytime event | My Baby My Star

Most parties agree on a few basic facts: Tuesday’s “Pride Storytime” event was held for children under 7 in the Osprey Room at Pine Valley Library from 5:30-6:30 p.m. “Books about LGBTQIA+ families and all the many different types of families come in, like Dad & Dad by Ryan Brockington and Isaac Webster and Heather has two moms by Leslea Newman” and would be followed by a craft session.

The event was restricted to those accompanying children who had registered in good time.

Protesters outside the Pine Valley Library on Tuesday.

Protesters gathered outside the library holding signs with messages such as “Pedophiles use LGBTQ to groom children,” “Stop supplying pornography to our students,” and “New Hanover County is guilty of child molestation.”

Then the Proud Boys decided to enter the library and there are different narratives at this point.

What proponents say

Community advocates Angie Kahney, Ashley Daniels and Sandy Eyles were all present at the event. They emerged after seeing social media posts that suggested a protest was being planned. Kahney shared screenshots taken from the library’s social media site with WHQR.

According to Kahney and Daniels, who were in the library, a black man wearing a “Let’s Go Brandon” hat exited the protest outside, came in, was given directions to the Osprey Room, and tried unsuccessfully to enter. Then he walked away and went outside again.

Shortly thereafter, seven or eight Proud Boys entered the library and went straight to the Osprey Room. Daniels was further away, but recognized one of the meetings of the New Hanover County Board of Education. She overheard them making disparaging remarks about the event. Kahney, who was closer, said she heard loud talking and shouting, called the event “nasty,” made comments about “taxpayers’ money being used for pornography,” and asked to “see the drag queen” — an apparent reference to other Pride events in the area, the country that featured drag queens.

According to Kahney and Daniels, the Proud Boys attempted to gain entry to the Storytime event. While they were denied entry, Kahney said they shouted loud enough for parents and children inside to hear.

Afterwards, Kahney and Daniels said the Proud Boys “paraded” through the library, trying to converse with some patrons about pornography in the library and trying to intimidate other people before they left. Kahney said people were extremely uncomfortable.

    Demonstrators in front of the Pine Valley Library.

Demonstrators in front of the Pine Valley Library.

Kahney said proponents encouraged parents and children to go through a side door because they thought the protesters were the main focus. But according to her and smartphone photos she shared with WHQR, the protesters had also gone to the side exit – yelling and swearing at the parents as they fled to their cars.

Eyles, who was outside, said protesters rushed families as they exited the library. Many were shaken, Eyles said. Kahney said she saw children cry.

Kahney said she spoke to parents who were upset and concerned about future events: “I can say there are parents that I spoke to at the event after the event, and even today, who are still all excited and are scared. Do you want them to go to the Pride picnic this weekend?”

Kahney also said some attendees were told the protesters would stay outside, and technically the Proud Boys left their protest signs outside, according to the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office (NHCSO) and other witnesses. Still, Kahney said those parents might have had a false sense of security.

What Officials Say

NHCSO confirmed that it is aware of the concerns surrounding the event and has adequate resources. NHCSO stated that the Proud Boys did not break the law and denied any allegations that MPs “escorted” them to the Osprey Room or otherwise fraternized with them.

In a statement, NHCSO said there had been no disruption and attendees exited the event “without incident.”

On June 21, 2022, the New Hanover County Library hosted a Pride story reading at the Pine Valley branch of the New Hanover County Library. During the event, which took place in a private room at the library, a group of protesters gathered in the library’s parking lot. Sheriff deputies responded to a disturbance call. After some time, a small group of protesters entered the public library.

A warden from the Sheriff’s Office entered the library and positioned himself between the private room where the reading was taking place and the protesters. The warden instructed the protesters not to enter the room. At no time were the sheriff’s deputies a witness, nor did any library staff report any of the protesters causing a disturbance in the library or attempting to enter the private room where the reading was taking place. After the reading, all participants left the library without incident.

Linda Thompson, the county’s chief diversity, equity, and inclusivity officer, was present at the event and gave her perspective in a statement, also saying there had been “no disruption.”

“Library staff worked with sheriff’s deputies throughout the event, coordinating safety protocols in advance to ensure the safety of users and their ability to participate in activities undisturbed, while respecting the public’s right to protest outside.”

“Prior to and during the Storytime event, MPs and library staff worked to ensure protesters did not block the entrance to the library to allow visitors to enter. And after the Storytime program ended, several members of the protesting group wanted to get inside. Anyone from the public may enter the building as long as they are not actively protesting or disturbing other visitors, based on the library’s code of conduct. The library director walked in with them and deputies quickly made their way to Storytime’s door to ensure safety for library patrons and staff still in the room.

“Members of the protesting group were not allowed into the enclosed space where the event had taken place and where families were still inside, and there was no disturbance in the building. The sheriff’s deputies and library staff also provided assistance to parents and children who were still present (some had already left) to exit the library after the event. Parents and children were never in danger. The county celebrates all people, cultures, genders and gender identities and will continue to do so through our events, programs and actions,” she wrote.

Thompson also noted that legally anyone can be there as long as they don’t violate library policy. She also said parents and children are not in danger at any time.

Copyright 2022 WHQR. To see more, visit WHQR.

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