A group of five men police say appeared to be members of right-wing extremist group Proud Boys disrupted a LGBTQ event for children at the San Lorenzo Library on Saturday.
Alameda County Sheriff's Dept. Lt. Ray Kelly said the group entered the library about 1:30 p.m., 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.
"The men made homophobic and transphobic remarks against a member of the LGTBQ+ community who was hosting the event," Kelly wrote in an email. "There was no physical violence. Deputies responded to the disturbance and are conducting follow up to identify the group of men and their affiliation."
"We will initiate our hate crime protocol and will also address the annoying and harassing of children. More details to follow," Kelly wrote. "The men were reported to be members of the Proud Boys organization."
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The sheriff's department Facebook page says "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."
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."
Witnesses, who wanted to stay anonymous told NBC Bay Area Sunday that the group that disrupted the event was acting aggressively and yelled offensive slurs against the LGBTQ community.
"They came in and they were screaming about like pedophilia, saying things like 'We have to save the children' and I mean, they were terrifying the children," one witness told NBC Bay Area.
The performer, Panda Dulce didn't feel comfortable going on camera. But she released a statement Sunday and said that she immediately froze and the first thoughts that came across her mind— "Is it an ambush? Are they armed? And the massacre in Uvalde, Texas." That's when she said that she realized they were defenseless.
Library staff said that the men wouldn't leave, and their rhetoric was escalating so they called the sheriff's office, immediately.
“We removed the performer from the room to the back and then, we invited the parents and children to exit the room as well,” said Cindy Chadwick, librarian for Alameda County Library.
Even after all of that, both the performer and staff said they felt strong about finishing the reading program, so they ended up covering all of the open windows with anything they can find, just so they could make the families feel more comfortable.
The library added that nothing is stopping them from celebrating Pride Month but Panda Dulce said the incident and others are now pushing organizers to look at security measures, even at events like like this that are meant for children and families.
The incident happened on the same night as a truck full of masked men believed to be part of a white nationalist group was arrested near an Idaho Pride event.
Bay Area Congressman Eric Swalwell released the following statement Sunday evening:
“Today while on a plane back to Washington, DC, I learned about an attack in our community by members of the Proud Boys. We must reject this hate and extremism whenever it shows itself, which is why I will be returning home this Thursday to meet with law enforcement and the community. There is no place for this hate in the East Bay, and we all need to speak up with one voice in saying so.”
Bay City News contributed to the report.