Drag queen’s story hour for kids hit by ‘aggressive’ far-right protesters

Police attended a protest staged by the far-right at a Bristol library

A family-friendly Drag Queen Story Hour event in Bristol was rescheduled at the last minute due to “aggressive” anti-LGBTQ+ protesters.

Drag queen Aida H Dee was due to read stories to children at Henleaze Library on Thursday (28 July), but the event was put on hold when the small group of protesters turned aggressive.

Avon and Somerset Police arrested a woman over an alleged assault on a man at the event, however she was later de-arrested when she agreed to give her details.

Demonstrators were heard using homophobic slurs at the protest while holding signs with messages such as “wake up, this is child abuse” and “stop sexualising our children”.

Inside the library, parents who had gathered with their children sang songs to drown out the sound of the crowd outside.

All I wanted to do was read my children’s books.

“I am so proud of the families that have attended story hours after these protests,” Aida, known off stage as Sab Samuel, tells PinkNews. “These families that are attending are kind of doing their own protest by simply just attending.”

She adds: “All I wanted to do was read my children’s books.”

Bristol drag queen story hour is ‘definitely not cancelled’

The incident at Henleaze Library came just days after Aida was left fearing for her life when protesters descended on her Drag Queen Story Hour event in Reading.

She is doing “surprisingly well” considering the hate she has faced in recent days.

“I am very much keep calm, carry on, business as usual,” she says.

Aida and her team had planned in advance for “multiple eventualities”, including the possibility that the protesters would be “way too aggressive” for the event to go ahead. In the end, they decided to reschedule in the face of escalating violence.

I’m just upset that people who have obviously attended the story hour are going to have to return another day.

“We were around the corner from the library hoping that the aggression would calm down, but it didn’t calm down of course so we just rescheduled the story hour.

“I’m just upset that people who have obviously attended the story hour are going to have to return another day. It’s unfortunate but it’s definitely not cancelled, it’s 100 per cent rescheduled.”

A second Drag Queen Story Hour event, which was fully subscribed, was able to go ahead in Bristol later that day.

Aida H Dee wants to be a role model to children

Aida runs her Drag Queen Story Hour events because she didn’t have any queer role models to look up to when she was a child.

“I actually sat at my computer in school underneath a picture of Alan Turing. When I was five, the first concert I ever went to was Steps. When I was older, much older, I was livid that nobody told me H from Steps and Alan Turing were gay. I feel robbed of role models that I could have looked up to.”

She adds: “I am being the role model that I wish I had when I was their age.”

Those protesting the event – and similar events – have been quick to use the word “groomer” to describe LGBTQ+ people. The slur relies on the homophobic trope that gay people are paedophiles who can’t be trusted around children.

Aida H Dee says she’s “a bit bored” by the use of the slur.

“I feel a bit let down if that’s the only thing they can come up with – that’s about 40 or 50 years old, that slur.”

She continues: “Everybody knows that just because you’re LGBTQ+ that doesn’t mean you’re a paedophile or whatever, that’s ridiculous.”

The far-right protests have been widely condemned

The protests have been condemned by Bristol City Council. In a statement, a spokesperson said the demonstration was “unacceptable”, adding: “Drag Queen Story Hour at Bristol Libraries offers children a rich experience in story telling in an interactive way as well as an understanding of different communities.

“Lessons like this are how we can create a more inclusive society, and educate children about tolerance and difference.

“Unfortunately it seems some adults need those lessons too.

“We have put security in place and there’s a police presence to reduce the risk of threatening behaviour towards the artists involved, our staff, and the parents and children.”

Andrew Brown, a Liberal Democrat councillor for Hengrove and Whitchurch Park, said he was “disappointed and angered” to see libraries being picketed.

“It is essential that we celebrate diversity – but also recognise that we are all human beings with, ultimately, shared objectives of personal happiness and a desire to be accepted for who we are,” he tweeted.

In a statement, Avon and Somerset Police confirmed that a woman was briefly detained at the protest.

“The incident happened during a protest and counter-protest about a drag queen touring libraries in Bristol reading a children’s story,” the spokesperson said.

“Officers attended to facilitate peaceful protest and enable library staff and visitors, the event organisers and the wider community to go about their lawful business.

“The woman was arrested on suspicion of assault after refusing to give officers her details and later de-arrested after confirming her identity to officers.

“The incident will be recorded and investigated.”