cw: virulent transphobia, transphobic rhetoric, queerphobia
The Arlington Hills Public Library in St. Paul, Minnesota (so called) held a Drag Queen Story Hour, where families with children from the neighborhood were invited to come watch a couple of performers sing and dance and read stories for an hour on the morning of Saturday, 24 Sep 2022. Hold the Line MN had publicly encouraged protest of this event, citing the "degeneracy" of drag performers, decrying parents for "grooming" their children for pedophilia, and generally performing trans- and queer-phobic posturing.
Workers Defense Alliance members attended the counterprotest with the aims of contributing to the general vibe of the event (family-oriented and joyfully and unapologetically queer), and ensuring the event was not disrupted.
The group protesting the story hour was composed of mainly Proud Boys, and numbered about 15 at its biggest. The counterprotesters numbered around 100.
Counterprotesters occupied two corners of the Library parking lot and grounds for much of the action - immediately to the west of the main entrance, and to the north. The protesters were relegated to the northwest corner of the parking lot for the entirety.
Much of the counterprotester activity was joyous and was not directed at the opposition at all. Counterprotesters played family-friendly music and encouraged a dance party, which the crowd generally went along with. One person showed up with a machine that blew bubbles over the crowd - this was met with general delight.
The protesters produced a bullhorn to spew taunts at the counterprotesters (e.g. claiming that counterprotesters were pedophiles/"tr*nn*es"/not masculine enough/grooming children for purposes unspecified/supporters of the mainstream Democrat party/or alternatively communists and/or "fuck Antifa! fuck Antifa!" etc.) The protesters displayed pornographic signs with slogans directed at the drag performers inside, and shouted comments directly at the children entering the building. At no point did the counterprotesters display pornographic images of any sort, or shout anything but encouragement at the lone child who had been dragged along to the event by their protesting parent.
At one point, one of the attendees parked their car nearby and played music through their car stereo instead of through the small speaker the counterprotesters had been using. This had the advantage of being much louder and partially drowning out the protesters.
Meanwhile, families trickled into the venue throughout the morning. All expressed happiness for the counterprotest support and most were outwardly and vocally disapproving of the protesters (e.g. "it's too damn early in the morning for this!" said one parent, gesturing towards the protesters as they held their young child). The children seemed generally unfazed by the proceedings.
At one point one of the counterprotesters approached without backup a protester who had broken away from the main protester group temporarily - this immediately drew the attention of two Proud Boys who sprinted to the protester's side and got in the face of the lone counterprotester. A group of other counterprotesters approached the lone member and drew them back to the line safely, avoiding the obvious attempt by the Proud Boys to physically escalate.
This generally characterized the action outside. Some counterprotesters (including Alliance members) eventually were invited inside the venue by Library staff to provide "color," generally be cheerful and supportive, and also keep watchful eyes open to aid the staff.
Inside, the event proceeded on schedule and according to plan. More than 60 people, representing at least 20 different families from across the East Side participated in a show by two beautiful drag performers, consisting of song and dance and story-telling. No children were harmed in the making of the event.
A couple of protesters made their way into the building, including one parent (mentioned briefly above) who brought their child to this supposedly "dangerous" event, and was subsequently escorted out by Library staff after apparently attempting to disrupt it. An older protester repeatedly tried to film the young children and families in attendance, but the Library staff recruited tall people to block the filming, and this tactic seemed to be mostly successful. The audience members also engaged this person in conversation and seemed to convince them to stop filming over the course of the show, at least temporarily.
As the event inside proceeded, counterprotesters outside shifted to form a wall of blankets/quilts/banners/hammocks/lots of creative things that shielded the families and children inside from the protesters's actions, epithets, and pornographic imagery.
When the event concluded on-time and without disruption, the comrades inside helped direct the families to the wall of supporting awaiting them outside. Children and families leaving the venue were greeted by cheers and general joviality, and all were escorted by counterprotesters to their vehicles to ensure they were able to leave safely and with minimal further harassment by the protesters.