EVANSVILLE, Ind. —After months of arguing, meetings and protest, the first Drag Queen Story Hour was a success.
The Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library (EVPL) said in a statement that about 275 children and their guardians were able to attend the event, with another 150 turned away because they simply ran out of room.
Local drag artist Florintine Dawn read the “Very Hungry Caterpillar;” “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?”;and “Goodnight Moon.” Children also danced to “The Hokey Pokey,” “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” and “Freeze Dance.” EVPL also had activities, books and crafts ready in their children’s area for both before and after the reading and for kids who couldn’t get in.
While the kids had fun inside, there were protests out front from both supporters and opponents of the story hour. The Evansville Courier & Press reported that there were police on scene for safety and that the opposing groups were kept separated. Some of those protesting against the event had come from as far away as Mississippi and Alabama.
From the Courier & Press:
One group, who call themselves “Warriors for Christ” and posted a live-stream video from the EVPL parking lot, yelled out anti-gay slogans and spoke out against parents who brought their children to the event as well as the LGBTQ community.
A contingent of Evansville Police Department officers was on hand and kept that group separate from the main groups of supporters and protesters that had gathered near the library entrance.
“Children as young as two or three years old are being forced to make sexual decisions about their gender,” said Gabriel Olivier, a man who traveled from Mississippi to protest the event. “They’re being told to ignore basic biology about how their bodies were created by the Lord. They’re being forced, coerced and ushered into this place where a drag queen will tell them they can decide what gender they are going to be. We’re here to stand up against that and preach the gospel.”
The families attending came both for support and because they wanted their children to see different kinds of people than they might see in their regular day to day. The biggest issue many had were opponents of story hour. One child said she was nervous because of the loud protests, but was fine one she got inside. A mother found the language the opponents used offensive and ironic.
“My biggest issue with the protests is, they are here talking about shielding children and protecting their innocence, but I was called a couple things coming in that are not child-friendly words,” Kensington Blaylock-Eck, who’d brought her four-year-old, told the newspaper. “So I’m a little bit confused about the purpose of the protest.”
“We are very pleased that the community came together and supported Drag Queen Story Hour,” said Wally Paynter, president of the Tri-State Alliance (TSA). “We have made this the most popular children’s story hour in the library history, due in part to the opposition’s non-stop publicity campaign.” TSA, a regional LGBTQ rights organization, was one of the groups that organized to support the event with promotion and at local government meetings.
The EVPL said there weren’t plans for more Drag Queen Story Hours, but they would be looking at the feedback to see if they’d have similar events in the future.
The story hour finishes up months of controversy that had raged in the city after an Evansville councilman, Justin Elpers, condemned the event on his Facebook page months ago. The Courier & Press reported that Elpers was with the protesters against the event, but he wouldn’t talk with the press.
All photos courtesy of Tri-State Alliance