Members of the group Warriors for Christ shout at the crowd of supporters of Drag Queen Storytime during a protest and counterprotest Jan. 26. They told the people, among other things, they will “burn in hell” for supporting the program.

Members of the group Warriors for Christ shout at the crowd of supporters of Drag Queen Storytime during a protest and counterprotest Jan. 26. They told the people, among other things, they will “burn in hell” for supporting the program.

Photo by Patricia O'Blenes


Supporters, protesters clash outside Drag Queen Storytime

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published January 27, 2019

 A supporter of Drag Queen Storytime makes peace signs at protesters outside the Huntington Woods Public Library Jan. 26.

A supporter of Drag Queen Storytime makes peace signs at protesters outside the Huntington Woods Public Library Jan. 26.

Photo by Patricia O'Blenes

 Jason Smart, Chloe Smart, 8, Julian Smart, 5, and Bree Stocker-Smart are cheered by supporters of Drag Queen Storytime, who formed a walkway for event attendees, as they walk into the Huntington Woods Public Library for the program Jan. 26.

Jason Smart, Chloe Smart, 8, Julian Smart, 5, and Bree Stocker-Smart are cheered by supporters of Drag Queen Storytime, who formed a walkway for event attendees, as they walk into the Huntington Woods Public Library for the program Jan. 26.

Photo by Patricia O'Blenes

 Protesters and supporters of Drag Queen Storytime were separated by a small barrier to keep the two groups away from each other. Local police also were in attendance to make sure things didn’t get out of hand.

Protesters and supporters of Drag Queen Storytime were separated by a small barrier to keep the two groups away from each other. Local police also were in attendance to make sure things didn’t get out of hand.

Photo by Patricia O'Blenes

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HUNTINGTON WOODS — “Love, not hate.”

That was the chant from supporters of the Huntington Woods Public Library’s Drag Queen Storytime event during a counterprotest to dissenters of the program Saturday, Jan. 26.

Gathered in the library’s parking lot, a couple of hundred supporters of Drag Queen Storytime shouted chants and sung songs against the more than a dozen people who showed up to protest the program, which had its first event since it started grabbing headlines at the end of last year.

Bree Stocker-Smart arrived at the protest with her husband, Jason, and children, Chloe, 8, and Julian, 5, as they were going to attend that day’s reading by Raven Divine Cassadine and Dylan West.

Stocker-Smart said her family always has supported Drag Queen Storytime, but never had a chance to attend the program before. After she learned of the email that former City Commissioner Allison Iversen sent advocating for the discontinuation of the event, Stocker-Smart and her family wanted to support the event as much as they could.

“For the last year, (story time) has been ongoing ...  and I’ve supported it. I thought it was great. It made me like my community a lot more,” she said. “When I found out that there were folks that were protesting, including a city (commissioner) who started it all, it made me upset. I was angry. I felt a little … angry that our quiet, sleepy neighborhood that’s super liberal, I like to think, was getting dragged into this. So I wanted to make sure that the good folks came out in numbers.”

“I think anyone reading books to children is a great thing. I don’t care what they look like. … I support it,” she said.

Kimberly Krzyzanowski, of Lincoln Park, said she came to the counterprotest to support the kids.

“It’s hard to force a kid to be something they’re not, and this is an age where we really need to let them explore themselves and find who they are,” she said. “People are trying to stop that and it’s not good. I mean, it’s terrible for the kids. It could affect their mental health and who they are.”

While the supporters stood in the parking lot, the protesters of the program, including some that came from out of state, stood on the sidewalk.

The protesters were small in number compared to the program’s supporters, but one group with a megaphone spread its message loudly.

Rich Penkoski, of Bristol, Tennessee, came with his group, Warriors for Christ, and said a resident of Huntington Woods reached out to their Facebook page and asked if they would come help protest the program. He said they would come back to protest a future event, but only if they’re invited by a resident to attend.

Penkoski said the message they wanted to send was that Drag Queen Storytime was “perversion.”

"This is not about literacy. It’s a cover to try to get kids to come into the library to convince them that boys can be girls and girls can be boys,” Penkoski said.

Before anyone arrived for the protest and the event, Mayor Bob Paul and Youth Services Librarian Joyce Krom held a conversation with local media, as media was not allowed inside the actual story time.

Paul said Drag Queen Storytime represents the values of Huntington Woods, while also saying drag queens are a part of society and that no harm comes from offering the gift of reading.

“If the program helps one child to feel more accepted, less bullied, less likely to be depressed or have thoughts of suicide, then it is a huge success,” he said.

Paul said the city understands not everyone supports the program, and if Huntington Woods is truly a welcoming community, it must acknowledge the rights of others to express differing opinions.

“That doesn’t mean it will impact the programming in Huntington Woods that aligns with our city’s values,” he said. “This program is 100 percent optional, but we have found that an overwhelming number of parents in our community welcome this exposure for their children and appreciate this opportunity that opens minds and promotes acceptance. The city has no intention of discontinuing this program.”

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