On Wednesday, Oct. 25, a raucous group of at least 50 right-wing demonstrators showed up at the San Fernando Library to protest storytime with Pickle the Drag Queen.
The protestors illegally blockaded the entrances to the library, preventing Pickle from entering which resulted in the cancellation of the event.
The storytime was organized by County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath’s office as part of a countywide program celebrating LGBTQ+ History Month, to share stories that promote diversity, equity and inclusion.
“We’re here to give young people and everyone who wanted to participate in this conversation the opportunity to participate in drag story hour, to ask questions in a place where education and information would be readily provided,” said Horvath, who was at the library to see the protest first-hand.
“It is a person’s right to protest and demonstrate. It is not a person’s right to prevent public programming from occurring. It is not a person’s right to physically prevent a protected class of citizens from entering a public library,” said Pickle. “And it is the responsibility of the county, it is the responsibility of the Sheriff’s Department, to ensure that those freedoms are protected. That did not happen today.”
This same group disrupted Pickle’s library reading last April in Sherman Oaks, which was also supported by Horvath’s office. At the event, they got inside the library and disrupted the storytime reading, standing up and calling it a “perversion.”
According to Pickle, besides one event in Glendale canceled prior to the event taking place, this is the first time that a storytime event has been canceled due to protestors.
San Fernando Police Lieutenant Pete Aguirre said the department was “advised of the protest with sufficient time to bring in resources,” and that roughly 10 San Fernando officers were present in preparation for the demonstration, as well as a small contingent of County Sheriffs.
He said their “primary objective [was] to ensure no one got assaulted, no one got injured. And in that end, we were successful. Secondary to that was opening the thruway to ensure people could get in and out.”
Despite an illegal blockade of public space, no violence ensued, and no arrests were made.
“Now we have to have these conversations with our kids at such a young age. It’s frustrating. We weren’t ready to have these conversations with them,” said Alyssa Sonora, an organizer of the protest and co-founder of the San Fernando Valley Alliance community action group.
Many of the demonstrators view drag as sexualized adult entertainment that is inappropriate for children and said they didn’t think these events should be taking place with taxpayer dollars in public spaces.
Pickle, who has developed these storytime events, considers the readings to be appropriate for all ages.
“Drag is an art form, like ballet or acting or singing – an art form that encourages expression. The work that I do is not only appropriate for children, but it is tailored to meet their educational goals to encourage them to read,” said Pickle. “It sets a very dangerous precedent to imagine that a person should not be allowed to read stories because of the way they look.”
A few people from the San Fernando community showed up in support of drag storytime.
“If you say that you don’t want to bring your kid to a drag queen story hour, by all means, don’t. But if you want to, you should be able to,” said Sergio Amalfitano, a local business owner.
“The thing that was scary was the protesters. They were literally filming a little girl, and they were telling the mom that she deserved to have that child taken away. And they were telling the mom that she was a pedophile. And this little girl was crying in her mom’s arms,” said Amalfitano. “I had to stand physically in front of this grown man trying to film this child, to block him from filming her.”
Demonstrators lingered after the event was canceled, and yelled at Horvath as she got in her car to leave.
“I understand that people have all different kinds of points of view on this kind of event happening, and they have every right to express their points of view. I think that my hope is that we can find ways for people to peacefully coexist in a community, to build community together,” said Horvath.
The San Fernando Valley Sun/el Sol will follow up on this story to see if the Drag Queen Storytime will be rescheduled.