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Police do more patrols of Downers Grove library after threats for drag event

Downers Grove Public Library. Photo from Facebook

Downers Grove police have increased patrols around the village’s public library after threats and harassment.

The Daily Herald reported that the local police had increased patrols after threats to the building and staff over Drag Queen Bingo on Oct. 11. The police will also be present at the library on that day to provide security. Threats have been coming both through social media and phone calls.

In a statement sent to the Herald, the library board said they were concerned about the threats.

“No member of our community should feel unsafe in their homes, places of work or elsewhere in the village of Downers Grove,” they said in a collective statement released Friday. “Promoting civil discourse among the diverse members of our community is important, and creating an environment of fear dampens all of our ability to hear those perspectives.”

Downers Grove Mayor Bob Barnett warned people opposing the event.

“While we encourage citizens to exercise their First Amendment rights peacefully, criminal activities are not welcomed or tolerated,” Barnett told the newspaper. “Anyone who commits a crime will be prosecuted to the extent possible within the law.”

The library stood by the event in a statement last week.

Drag Queen Bingo is becoming a major cause with right-wing groups. Awake Illinois, a conservative group that also objected to a drag brunch at a Lake in the Hills bakery, has continued to call for people write to the library board and show up at the September library board meeting.

Keith Pekau, mayor of nearby Orland Park who is also the GOP candidate for the Illinois 6th district, slammed the event.

“I join parents across the district in denouncing this event, just as I would denounce a library introducing kids to straight sex by holding a burlesque show,” Pekau said in a statement last week. “To be clear, I have no interest in regulating the private, consensual activities and decisions of adults. This event, however, targets children. It’s inappropriate, and an unacceptable use of taxpayer funds.”

The event is being paid for by an anonymous donor.

Sean Casten (D-Downers Grove), according to the Herald, supports the event.

Right-wing websites like DuPage Policy Journal and The PostMillennial have also continued to cover the event even as the local government and community have supported the library.

The suburban counties surrounding Chicago have increasingly become battlegrounds for LGBTQ rights. Once solidly Republican and relatively conservative, the region has become increasingly progressive. A growing number of towns and cities in the region now hold annual Pride festivities. The chair of the DuPage County Democratic Party, Ken Mejia Beal, is an out gay man. As of the 2018 midterms, all of the congressional representatives of the area are Democrat, and most of them have actively supported LGBTQ bills.

The region is also a kingmaker for any statewide office seekers. With the city of Chicago and downstate Illinois being almost equal in population, it’s the seven million in the suburbs that decide elections.

Awake Illinois and groups like Moms for Liberty have been focusing a lot of effort in the area. Both organizations have local chapters in DuPage County, the second-most populous county in Illinois and home to some of the largest suburbs.

The next Downers Grove library board meeting is Wednesday, Sept. 28. The meetings are held at the library’s meeting room and start at 7:30. The public can comment on agenda items.