Clashes outside a Bristol library due to host a drag queen story time show

28 July 2022, 17:47 | Updated: 29 July 2022, 05:53

More than 30 people demonstrated against the event held at Hillfields Library, with a similar number arriving to counter-protest shortly after
More than 30 people demonstrated against the event held at Hillfields Library, with a similar number arriving to counter-protest shortly after. Picture: LBC

By Lauren Lewis

An event in Bristol where a drag queen was due to read to children was delayed today after protesters and counter-protesters demonstrated outside.

More than 30 people demonstrated against the event held at Hillfields Library, with a similar number arriving to counter-protest shortly after.

The host was escorted from the venue following the protests and a librarian read to the children instead.

Bristol City Council said people who protested "need lessons in tolerance and difference."

It comes after police yesterday had to escort the star performer from "Drag Queen Story Hour" to safety with the help of a riot van after protesters stormed the event.

A Bristol City Council spokesperson said: "Drag Queen Story Hour at Bristol Libraries offers children a rich experience in story telling in an interactive way as well as an understanding of different communities.

"Lessons like this are how we can create a more inclusive society, and educate children about tolerance and difference.

"Unfortunately it seems some adults need these lessons too. We have put security in place and there's a police presence to reduce the risk of threatening behaviour towards the artists involved, our staff, and the parents and children."

Angry demonstrators opposed to children being read to by a drag queen protested at Reading Central Library while one group threatened to perform a citizen's arrest on the main drag queen organiser.

The Reading Borough Council venue had booked Drag Queen Story Hour UK, which sees drag queens read to children aged between three and 11 for Monday.

Sab Samuel, 27, who runs the event and performs under the name "Aida H Dee", had to be escorted out of the event by officers after opponents managed to get into the venue.

Protesters used megaphones and held banners as they shouted "paedophile" as he was brought in, and yelled "paedophile protectors" at the officers helping him.

Social media footage showed them challenging parents who are taking their children into the library. Police prevented them from entering.

Two mothers had managed to get into the ticketed event and heckled Mr Samuel, The Telegraph said.

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One branded it "disgusting" and tantamount to "child grooming" before asking if he knew what "autogynephilia" is – the term for when men are sexually aroused by thinking of being female.

"You're probably teaching kids that there's 100 genders, there's only two sexes, no man can be a woman," shouted a mother.

"We're here to protect children."

Mr Samuel, who wears a sequin dress in his performances, was taken out of the library's back door as officers formed a human wall to keep protesters away.

Drag Queen Story Time's website says: "Drag Queen Story Hour UK provide fun and interactive kids shows with amazing and talented drag performers!

"Drag Queen Story Hour UK wants to show the world that being different is not a bad thing, and by providing imaginative role models for children to look up to, we can change the world book by book!"

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The Reading event was one of the 70 events across the UK that Drag Queen Story Hour UK will visit over the next two months.

More dates are scheduled for Leeds, Rochdale and Bolton, and other demonstrations are expected too.

A spokesperson for Reading Borough Council said the classes were "age appropriate" and the protests were "extremely disappointing".

"This was a ticketed event and all parents attending were aware of the nature of the performance. It is regretful that some people chose not to respect parental choice," they said.

"The council does not tolerate threats or abuse against our staff, members of the public or the entertainers we have invited to perform at our venues."

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Tanya Carter, a spokesperson for the Safe Schools Alliance, which represents parents and teachers and has LGBT backing, said she was "absolutely horrified that things have got to this stage", and was worried about the safety of children in the face of the protests.

Piers Shepherd, a senior researcher at the Family Education Trust, which wrote to the Children's Commissioner over the event, said it was concerning police had to be used and said the library should be used as a "family friendly" location.

Thames Valley Police did not make any arrests.