Protests form outside Edmonton library over drag queen reading to children

·3 min read
A crowd of about 50 people were outside the Edmonton Public Library downtown, protesting or counter-protesting whether a drag queen should be reading to children at a library-sponsored event. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC - image credit)
A crowd of about 50 people were outside the Edmonton Public Library downtown, protesting or counter-protesting whether a drag queen should be reading to children at a library-sponsored event. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC - image credit)

A noisy scene transpired outside the public library in downtown Edmonton Saturday morning, as protesters and counter-protesters clashed over an event where a drag queen was invited to read to children.

Around 11 a.m., Felicia Bonée, with their pink hair and wearing a necklace and a long purple dress, was positioned in front of Pride-coloured balloons and read and sang to dozens of children and parents in the Stanley A. Milner library.

Meanwhile, a crowd of about 50 people held ground outside, on the corner of 100th Street and 102nd Avenue. One side was against the library-sponsored event, suggesting it wasn't safe for kids. The other, sporting Pride colours and playing music, was there to support the LGBT community.

"A lot of hate-filled, angry people are emboldened by current political figures that seem to be kind of rising in power," said Rob Browatzke, who attended the counter-protest. Browatzke co-owns Evolution Wonderlounge, Edmonton's gay bar.

"They're frustrated because they're dying off. That [cis-gender], white, straight world that they thought that they were in charge of is actually not the real world at all."

The event held Saturday morning, called Over the Rainbow Storytime, was part of the Edmonton Public Library's summer programming. The event's description said it would be a family-friendly program, suitable for children from preschool age to 12 years old, featuring stories of diversity and inclusion, singing and "maybe even a little glitter."

Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC
Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC

Family Guy's Family Law Reform planned a protest outside the library ahead of the event, however. Organizers claimed they were concerned the event would be sexual in nature, thus inappropriate for children.

"What we are against is the propagandization of our children toward what could be considered sexual, as well as political, ideologies," said Bradley Chalmers, an organizer and member of Family Guy's.

The group describes itself as a family law reform advocate, according to its website. It has made several Facebook posts in recent weeks that suggest drag queens would somehow manipulate, groom, or sexualize children.

Word of the protest made it to local LGBT advocates, who then organized a counter-protest.

"We all rallied together and we decided that this is not going to be something that we're going to allow in our streets," said Kayle Mackintosh, one of the counter-protest organizers.

Roma Schroter, another organizer, said the protesters' beliefs are prejudiced and they are spreading a stigma based on falsehoods.

Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC
Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC

"They are taking away from an incredibly inclusive and adorable event, frankly," Schroter said.

Justin Duval was walking nearby with his wife and two daughters, Anna and Evelin. They saw the crowd and eventually learned what people were doing on the corner, so they went inside for storytime, Duval said.

The family enjoys visiting the library, he said, particularly for its range of programming that can introduce his children to issues and start conversations.

"Having these events gives an opportunity for us to be able to educate, first, our children and to normalize... what the spectrum is, in terms of differences in sexuality and orientation," Duval said.

Duval said the event did not contain adult content, when asked about the protesters' concerns.

Anna and Evelin told CBC News it was their first time attending an Over the Rainbow Storytime event, and they really enjoyed it.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting