Demonstrators gather at children’s Pride story time at New Hanover Co. Library

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) – New Hanover County residents are expressing concerns after protests showed up at a Pride Storytime event at Pine Valley Library on Tuesday evening.

Community members, local church groups, and the Proud Boys protested outside of the Pride Storytime event at Pine Valley Library, that was being held for children ages 7 and under.

The event included books featuring LGBTQIA plus families, and arts and crafts.

In order to attend, children had to be accompanied by an adult, and pre-registration was required.

A parent who attended the event with their two children says they felt unsafe when entering the library, because of the challenges yelling at them for attending the event. Among those opponents were the Proud Boys.

“I came to Pride Storytime with my two kids. My 7-year-old is gender creative. We came in, there were opponents, there were probably about fifteen, and they were very vocal. They yelled at me, –they yelled at my kids. They told my kids they were going to hell. They told me I was a child abuser, they quoted scripture. We were escorted inside by a county –a library employee, ”said a concerned parent.

The concerned parent says at one point, the protesters made their way inside the library.

“It was scary. I told my kids, there, —there are challenged here, and I’m going to hold your hands, and we’re going to walk in, because we’re here for Pride story time. The library did a good job, but my kids were very, very, upset about all of the challengers and upset to be yelled at. My kids were excited to be coming to their first Pride event, ”said a concerned parent.

The Cape Fear Proud Boys sent WWAY a statement in regards to protesting the event, saying in part:

“Pride events nationally have experienced a shift in focus from celebrating two consenting adults to introducing sexuality to small children. As concerned citizens we will continue to utilize our first amendment rights to ensure public events for children are age appropriate. The Cape Fear Proud Boys will never initiate a violent confrontation. Our organization will always operate within the confines of the law. ”

Ashley Daniels, with the LGBTQ Center of The Cape Fear Coast was at the event, and says she believed the critics were trying to intimidate Storytime attendees.

“People deserve to feel safe when they utilize the public’s resources, when they utilize the public library. I think that children deserve to feel safe, after learning as they’re developing. I think that individuals get to determine who they are, and so no one gets to determine, –no matter how they feel about a lifestyle, no one gets to determine for someone else and what they have the right to be, ”said Ashley Daniels ,

New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office released statement regarding complaints entering the library:

“On June 21, 2022 the New Hanover County Library hosted a Pride story time reading at the New Hanover County Library Pine Valley branch. During the event, which was held in a private room in the library, a group of demonstrators assembled in the parking lot of the library. Sheriff deputies responded to a call of disturbance. After a period of time a small group of the demonstrators entered the library which is open to the public.

A Sheriff’s Office supervisor entered the library and positioned himself between the private room holding the reading and the demonstrators. The supervisor instructed the demonstrators that they were not allowed to enter the room. At no time did Sheriff deputies witness nor did any library staff report any of the demonstrators causing a disturbance within the library or try to enter the private room that was holding the reading. After the reading, all the participants left the library with no incident.

Sheriff McMahon stated, “I took an oath not to uphold opinions, but to uphold the law. Which is exactly what my supervisor and candidates did. ”

New Hanover County also released a statement from Chief Diversity & Equity Officer Linda Thompson about Tuesday night’s incident:

“The library staff worked collaboratively with the Sheriff’s deputies throughout the event, and had coordinated safety protocols ahead of time as well to help ensure the safety of patrons and their ability to participate in activities without disruption, while also respecting the public’s right to protest outside . Prior to the Storytime event and during it, deputies and library staff worked to ensure the opponents were not blocking the entrance to the library so patrons could enter. And after the Storytime program had ended, several members of the protesting group wanted to come inside. Anyone from the public is permitted inside the building as long as they are not actively protesting or disturbing other patrons, based on the library’s code of conduct. The library director came inside with them and deputies quickly made their way to the door of Storytime, to ensure safety for library patrons and staff who were still in the room. The members of the protesting group were not allowed in the closed room where the event had been held and families were still in, and there was no disturbance inside the building. Sheriff’s deputies and library staff also provided help to parents and kids who were still in attendance (some had left already) on where to exit the library following the event. Parents and children were not in danger at any time. The county celebrates all people, cultures, genders and gender identities and will continue to do that through our events, programs, and actions. ”

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