About two dozen people protested a drag queen story hour hosted by the Enoch Pratt Free Library’s Canton branch at The Church on The Square on Saturday.
They were met by 70 supporters of the event who showed up with umbrellas, flags, and sheets to shield the families coming to the reading with a “rainbow wall.”
Meghan McCorkell, a spokesperson for the library system, said the event has not had issues in the past.
“We’ve been organizing a drag queen story hour for the past three years and never had protesters,” she said. “I have no idea what caused this.”
About 80 people showed up to hear one of Baltimore’s local drag queens read to families, McCorkell said.
“We book all of our [readers] through the National Drag Queen Story Hour, who vets and trains the readers,” she said.
Outside, across from the church, protesters chanted “leave our children alone” and “let our kids be kids.” They carried signs that said “Cancel Drag Queen Story Hour,” “Drag Queens Belong In Clubs — Not Libraries” and “You Call It Storytime — We Call It Grooming.”
Supporters countered their chants with a mix of pop music and Disney and Broadway songs.
Iya Dammons, founder and executive director of Baltimore Safe Haven, a support center for at-risk LGBTQ residents, was pleased with the turnout of support.
“Today in Baltimore we showed them that hatred and discrimination have no place here,” she said. Dammons, along with colleagues, marched through the protest carrying a large rainbow flag.
Londyn Smith de Richelieu, director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, attended the event and said it was nothing more than a reading for children.
“It’s a parent’s autonomy to raise their children as they see fit as long as it’s not abuse,” she said.
Smith de Richelieu was inside the church during the reading and showed photos to the protesters outside.
“I told them the drag queen story time wasn’t about rearing a child to become a drag queen. It was a person in character reading and doing exercises with the children,” she said. “The children loved it. Around that room there were Black parents, Asian parents, white parents, it was an inclusive atmosphere. This is not a political issue, it’s a human issue.”
Supporters walked with attendees of the reading as they made their way to their cars after the event, and the protesters disbanded.
McCorkell said the library system will continue to host readings with drag queens.
“People who came to the Canton library were interested and we brought it to them,” she said. “It’s not going anywhere.”