San Lorenzo drag queen storytime hijacked by Proud Boys

  • by Eric Burkett, Assistant Editor
  • Monday June 13, 2022
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Panda Dulce, left, posed for a selfie with a security guard in uniform the day homophobic slurs were hurled at them during a Drag Queen Story Hour at San Lorenzo Library on June 11. Photo: Courtesy Panda Dulce via KQED
Panda Dulce, left, posed for a selfie with a security guard in uniform the day homophobic slurs were hurled at them during a Drag Queen Story Hour at San Lorenzo Library on June 11. Photo: Courtesy Panda Dulce via KQED

Kids attending a drag queen story hour at the San Lorenzo public library in the East Bay were confronted by right-wing protesters June 11, as alleged members of the Proud Boys barged in and harassed drag queen Panda Dulce as she was reading to the children.

"So who brought the tranny?" they yelled, according to KQED. They also called her "it" and a "pedophile."

Dulce said she was shaken by the experience.

"I didn't know if they were armed. I was only acutely aware of the fact that neither myself nor any of the other librarians were," she told KQED, which also quoted Dulce saying on her Instagram account the men "totally freaked out the kids. They got right in our faces. They jeered. They attempted to escalate to violence."

Alameda County Sheriff's deputies responded quickly to the Saturday afternoon incident. While no one was injured and no arrests were made, the Alameda County district attorney is presently searching through the penal code addressing incidents like this to determine what actions they might be able to take, sheriff's office public information officer Lieutenant Ray Kelly told the Bay Area Reporter.

Officers escorted Dulce to a safe part of the building, where they waited until the protesters dispersed. Once everything was clear, the story hour continued. A request to Dulce for comment was not immediately returned Monday.

The Proud Boys, a right-wing extremist group, had not really been on the Alameda County Sheriff's radar in recent years said Kelly, not since incidents in 2017 when right-wing extremists descended on Berkeley, sparking violent conflict with local left-wing and anti-fascist groups. Eleven people were injured and six hospitalized at that incident. Police arrested 21 people on a variety of charges, according to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Kelly said investigators believe all five men in the San Lorenzo incident were locals.

Authorities will be keeping an eye open for potential future events, said Kelly.

"We'll be at the library today," he said in a telephone interview with the B.A.R., and, if requested, they will be present at future drag queen story hours, as well.

Saturday's incident was roundly condemned in a statement by elected officials from throughout the East Bay including Oakland Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, who is running for the District 3 seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, which includes the unincorporated town of San Lorenzo.

"We, as out and proud LGBTQ+ and allied elected officials and community leaders are outraged about the senseless act of hate caused during the Drag Queen Story Hour at the San Lorenzo Public Library on June 11th," read a statement from more than a dozen elected officials. "We call upon the Alameda County Sheriff's Office and district attorney to investigate and charge these acts of hate aimed at harming members of our community and our allies. Additionally, we urge our non-LGBTQ+ allies in offices across the region and state to provide additional support to our community during these increasingly challenging times.

"We strongly condemn this act of hate aimed at harming members of our community and our allies," the statement continued. "We are living in a time where LGBTQ+ rights are under attack across several states in our nation, and sadly, even accepting and welcoming places like Alameda County are not exempt from this type of hate. Hate has no place in our community and must be met with decisive action."

The incident caught authorities off guard, said Kelly, as they've not had to deal with incidents like this during Pride Month before.

"I didn't see this one coming," he told the B.A.R. "Pride time is not something we've been concerned about."

GLAAD also condemned the San Lorenzo incident, as did the executive director of Drag Queen Story Hour.

"As many of the books that we read to children make perfectly clear: words and actions have consequences," stated Jonathan Hamilt, the leader of Drag Queen Story Hour. "It is unfathomable that adults would terrorize children and our drag performers at story hours, and we are livid that conservative politicians and right-wing media are increasingly inciting violence, rather than working to end it. We remain committed to creating safe opportunities for children to learn about the diversity of the world around them and express their most fabulous selves."

Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, called the incident "reprehensible."

"No child, family or person should ever be subjected to this inexcusable and hostile behavior," she stated. "This rhetoric and incitement of violence against drag performers, LGBTQ people, and allies can be directly attributed to politicians and their enablers spreading misinformation and vile rhetoric and must stop immediately. Every reasonable person should demand their elected officials speak out against this incident and this rhetoric. We must hold lawmakers accountable to keeping all kids safe from real harm."

Drag story hours under attack

Drag queen story hours have been under attack in other parts of the country, as well. In Texas, Republican state Representative Bryan Slaton announced plans to introduce legislation banning minors from attending drag performances.

That was spurred by an incident at an all-ages drag event in Dallas, when a group of protesters at the venue yelled homophobic threats and transphobic remarks at the children and parents present.

The lunchtime incident took place at Mr. Misster bar, noted for its drag brunches, reported the Houston Press.

"The organizers intended it as a family-friendly spin-off of their usual Drag Champagne Brunch, with modifications to make it all-age," Houston Press reported. "Kids interacted with the dancers and performers, including handing them dollar bills."

"The events of this past weekend were horrifying and show a disturbing trend in which perverted adults are obsessed with sexualizing young children," said Slaton in a statement published in the Houston Press. "As a father of two young children, I would never take my children to a drag show, and I know Speaker Dade Phelan and the rest of my Republican colleagues wouldn't either. Protecting our own children isn't enough, and our responsibility as lawmakers extends to the sexualization that is happening across Texas."

In a June 7 tweet responding to Slaton's Bill, gay California state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) joked it had sparked an idea for his own bill "offering Drag Queen 101 as part of the K-12 curriculum. Attending Drag Queen Story Time will satisfy the requirement."

Just days later on Sunday, June 12, Wiener received an email telling him bombs had been placed in his home and office. Police, using bomb-sniffing dogs, searched the senator's house and offices in San Francisco and Sacramento Sunday morning but turned up nothing.

In Idaho on Saturday, police officers arrested 31 people who are believed to be affiliated with the white nationalist group Patriot Front, after they were seen gathering near a Pride parade in the northern city of Coeur d'Alene, CNN reported.

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