The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a group of men likely associated with the proud boys who disrupted a drag queen storytelling event on Saturday with homophobic and transphobic slurs.
Deputies said the incident occurred around 1:30 p.m. at the San Lorenzo Library located on Paseo Grande.
Alameda County Sheriff’s Dept. Lt. Ray Kelly said the group entered the library during an event called Drag Queen Story Time. Kyle Chu, also known as drag queen Panda Dulce, hosted a story hour meant for preschool-aged children in celebration of Pride Month.
“I’ve always received death threats, hate mail for doing drag queen story hour. This time it felt very close to violence,” Dulce said in an interview with KPIX 5 on Sunday.
The sheriff’s office Facebook page said “The men were described as extremely aggressive with a threatening violent demeanor causing people to fear for their safety. Deputies responded to the scene and were able to de-escalate the situation.”
Dulce said eight to 10 men walked in to stop the event. There was a small group of preschoolers and their parents. Dulce was dressed up in San Francisco Giants gear.
“It was extremely loud. It was like a cacophony of voices just yelling over one another, taunting me, calling me a groomer, a pedophile, a tranny, and an ‘it’. (They were) interrogating the parents, ‘Why are you bringing your kids to this?’ I didn’t feel safe because one of them was wearing a shirt with an AK-47 on it. And it said ‘kill your local pedophile’,” Dulce recalled.
Dulce said she eventually went to a back room to avoid direct confrontation and hoped it would deescalate the situation.
“Fear, confusion, alarm. I remember one child looked to their mom and was like, ‘what’s going on? Why are they raising their voices? Who are these people?'” Dulce recalled. “I was raised by mostly straight people and I did not turn out straight. There’s no agenda here, except for being able to accurately reflect the diversity of our world. And because any one person’s world view can’t tolerate that doesn’t mean we should deprive children of that.”
Alameda County sheriff’s deputies responded and said the men were likely part of the Proud Boys, a right-wing hate group. In addition to possible hate crime charges, authorities said they could be charged with annoying and harassing children.
“They want us to disappear. They want us to not exist so they don’t have to confront their own discomfort with the idea that there are people different from them in the world. But guess what? There are people different from you in the world. And we’re going to stay here. And we’re going to continue doing what we’re doing. And we’re going to be visible about it,” said Dulce.
After the men were escorted out of the San Lorenzo Library, Dulce finished her book reading event. She said she will not let hate win.
In response to the attack, the sheriff’s office said they would increase security at the library and at other Pride Month events in the area.
“ACSO will dedicate all resources to ensure the safety of members of our LGBTQ community. We will make sure any future events at the library are safe against hate speech and threats of violence. As we celebrate Pride Month, we will be swift in our response to any incidents where there are threats to harm members of this community,” Kelly said.
Rep. Eric Swallwell (D-Dublin), who represents San Lorenzo in Congress, condemned the attack and said he would return from Washington on Thursday to meet with law enforcement and the community.
“We must reject this hate and extremism whenever it shows itself,” Swallwell said. “There is no place for this hate in the East Bay, and we all need to speak up with one voice in saying so.”
The Drag Queen Story Hour website describes the program as “just what it sounds like – drag queens reading stories to children in libraries, schools, and bookstores. DQSH captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models. In spaces like this, kids are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions and imagine a world where people can present as they wish, where dress up is real.”