Proud Boys who targeted LGBTQ+ story time met with ‘human shield’ of LGBTQ+ love

A crowd of people holding up signs in support of the LGBTQ+ community, Pride flags and colourful umbrellas gather outside the Roy and Helen Hall Library in Texas

A gang of alleged Proud Boys were met by a fierce “human shield” of LGBTQ+ advocates when they targeted a Pride Month library event. 

A Pride Month Family Storytime event in a Texas library was beset by anti-LGBTQ+ protesters, many wearing Trump merch and religious insignias, on Saturday (25 June).

Suspected members of the far-right groups Proud Boys and Three Percenters – some wearing body armour and reportedly armed – also showed up at the Roy and Helen Hall Library in McKinney, Texas, BuzzFeed News reported. 

But the far-right mob was met with a veritable wall of counter-protesters wearing kaleidoscopic colours, waving Pride flags and holding up signs in support of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Kathryn Vargas was among the parents to attend the family-friend library event with their kids. She told PinkNews that the books read out were “very child appropriate” with one simply about the colours of the rainbow as represented by the Pride flag, adding it was “nothing that was going real deep”. 

“It really did give us a good opportunity to go and have those conversations at home and take it as far as our kids were old enough and could understand,” Vargas said. 

Her family knew there would be protesters at the event after seeing backlash brewing on social media. Vargas said she decided to go because being an “ally means showing up”, and she believed it would be an “important lesson” for her kids. 

“Not only was it important for them to be at the storytime, to be exposed and see things that are different than our family – we don’t know who our kids are going to grow up to be,” she said. 

“I hope that one day, if they have questions, they remember, ‘Mom took me to the storytime or the books that we have in our house and my parents love me, period’.”

When she arrived at the event, she saw that the protesters were “severely” outnumbered – “probably five to one” – by LGBTQ+ supporters who crowded outside the library.

Several people in the right-wing groups had signs about “grooming” and “indoctrination”, Vargas said, but the counter-protesters made sure that kids couldn’t see them. When the protesters would try to yell something, Vargas said, their chants would be drowned out by cheers.

Michael Phillips, a senior research fellow at Southern Methodist University and historian, was among the pro-LGBTQ+ demonstrators at the event. 

Phillips told BuzzFeed News that the counter-protest was “pretty well organised” to ensure that families bringing their kids to the events weren’t “harassed, weren’t harangued — basically to form a human shield”.

“We formed a corridor that families could pass through,” Phillips added. 

Another counter-protester, named Josie, described how the far-right mob shouted “horrible” things at people, calling them “groomers”, “pedophiles”, “calling other women whores” and “fat-shaming” others. 

“You could tell that they wanted to incite some type of violence,” Josie told BuzzFeed News. “They just wanted to make us get angry so they could have something to use against us.”

Several LGBTQ+ inclusive events have been threatened by far-right groups in recent months, ever since Republican lawmakers in Texas, Florida and Arizona began rallying against kids attending family-friendly drag events. Some have even promised to introduce legislation banning minors from drag shows. 

Vargas said that she’s seen this “trend” of Texas “being in the news for just being this hotbed of hate”. But, she doesn’t think it’s reflective of “how diverse” the communities are in that region of the USA. 

She said it was “heartbreaking” to see queer people “protecting their own event” and wans there to be a day when “no one has to stand outside of a library to kids to be able to go inside and listen to a book”.

“What happened on Saturday, that’s reflective of who we are,” she added. “Hate has no home here, and I hope we start seeing more stories like this coming out of Texas.”

Two drag performers read from a children's book in front of several young children during an event at a library

Right-wing legislators and groups have protested against kids attending family-friendly drag events in recent months. (Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty)

In June, several men hijacked a Drag Queen Story Hour event, which was aimed primarily at pre-school children, at the San Lorenzo Library in California. The five men entered the library and reportedly began shouting “homophobic and transphobic slurs”, arguing with parents that the event was “sexual”. 

The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office said the men were “described as members of the Proud Boys organisation, known to be a right wing hate group with anti-LGBTQ affiliations”. 

Police added that attendees described the men as “extremely aggressive with a threatening violent demeanor” which caused “people to fear for their safety”. 

An armed man, later identified as a Proud Boys member, disrupted a Drag Queen Story Hour event at a library in Sparks, Nevada on Sunday (26 June) afternoon. 

Local outlets News 4 and Fox 11 reported a group of Proud Boys protested outside the library against the family-friendly drag event. The news crew was covering the event when a man wearing Proud Boys clothing approached the library while carrying a gun, causing everyone to run into the library for safety. 

Police were monitoring the protest from a scene but left soon afterwards, and there was no police present when the armed man approached the building.