Proud Boys members under hate crime investigation after disrupting East Bay drag queen story event

ByAnser Hassan KGO logo
Tuesday, June 14, 2022
Hate crime investigation underway after group storms drag story hour
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Alameda County Sheriff, D.A. to determine if hate crime charges will be filed for Proud Boys who disrupted San Lorenzo library event for kids.

SAN LORENZO, Calif. (KGO) -- The Alameda County Sheriff's Office says it has identified and interviewed several members of the far-right, white-nationalist group, the Proud Boys, who took part in disrupting a reading event at the San Lorenzo Library on Saturday.

It happened during the Drag Queen Story Hour event, which are taking place across the county during Pride month.

Bay Area drag queen Panda Dulce was reading to young kids, when the men arrived.

"Probably about 12 minutes into the event, a group of men interrupted the event in a very angry and aggressive manner," explains Lieutenant Ray Kelly, with the Alameda County Sheriff's Department. "(They) began to shout homophobic and transphobic slurs at the event's organizers, in the presence of children."

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Monday afternoon, posters of solidarity with the LGBTQ community were hanging in the library windows.

"What happened on Saturday, I feel, it's very unfortunate because everyone has (their) rights," says Faraz Ahmed. He wasn't at Saturday's event, but he regularly brings his children to the library, in part, because it is safe place for them.

"Especially (with) kids around, they will feel traumatized by this kind of thing," says Ahmed.

On Monday afternoon, Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern met with library staff. He says he wanted to assure them that they did the right thing, in calling law enforcement before the situation escalated.

"What is problematic for law enforcement is the children involved. We never want to have an event where children are frightened," Sheriff Ahern told ABC7 News.

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One mother, who didn't want to be identified, and who was at the library on Monday, says she would not bring her children to a drag queen event. But she is more upset with the threats made in front of children.

"I don't think (LGBTQ people) should be shunned or flipped off, or say anything nasty. That's even worse for the kids to see," she says.

Jonathan Hamilt is the executive director of the Drag Queen Story Hour, which is held around the world.

He describes it as using drag as a traditional art form to promote literacy, and age-appropriate programs to teach about LGBTQ lives.

He says there will be increase security at rest of their events during Pride Month.

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"Any disruption to an event that is rooted in homophobia or transphobia, is hate," says Hamilt. "As many of the books that we read to kids make perfectly clear, words and actions have consequences. And it is unfathomable that adults would terrorize children and drag performers at story hours."

Lieutenant Kelly says no arrests have been made. He adds that the sheriff's department will work with the district attorney's office to determine if the threats rose to the level of a hate crime.

Kelly says that is hard to determine at the patrol level, and will require further investigation.

"Right now, what we are dealing with is there is a fine line between what is free speech and constitutionally protected speech. And you have to decipher for a hate crime, does that line get crossed," explains Lt. Kelly. "Is it when criminal threats are made? Is it when children are annoyed or harassed? Is it when people fear for their safety and have to flee from a room?"