In Concord, a crowd gathers to say 'All are welcome' to counter Drag Queen Story Hour protest
A drag queen story hour at Teatotaller, a cafe in downtown Concord, drew a crowd of over 100 supporters Sunday who mobilized in response to a small group of protesters affiliated with the far-right group the Proud Boys.
Juicy Garland, a drag queen from Massachusetts, hosted the space-themed story hour, which was the cafe’s first. Family-friendly drag queen story hours have been hosted at libraries and private venues for years, in an effort to increase LGBTQ+ visibility and encourage reading.
The team at Teatotaller says the cafe started getting messages last week from people upset about the event and from others who had learned that protestors might attend. And on Friday, the manager received a threatening email from a well-known white nationalist.
During the story hour, close to 100 counter-protesters shouting “Love not hate” blocked the windows and doors of the venue as about 10 men wearing Proud Boys symbols spoke through megaphones and held signs. Several other protestors arrived playing gospel music and holding signs with Bible verses.
The Proud Boys, which gained wide recognition during the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, have in recent years shown up to school board meetings in New Hampshire and elsewhere to protest mask mandates and lessons about race and racism.
The group has also taken aim at drag queen story hours across the country, including in New Hampshire. They accuse the events of “grooming,” a term that describes manipulative behaviors of a sex abuser towards a potential victim. But recently, the term has been wielded to attack individuals, events and books that are inclusive of LGBTQ+ people.
Rob O’Brien brought his two daughters to the event because they like storytelling and outer space.
“It's for the kids,” he said. “It shouldn't be anything else but that, unfortunately, you know, things can get perverted and bent and twisted. And that makes me, you know, really sad.”
O’Brien said he wasn't prepared for a showdown outside the event.
“In my own mind, it should be fine,” he said. “But, you know, people disagree with people who are different from them. And some people can't accept that. Some people get scared of that and they show that through hate.”
Outside the event, Chloe LaCasse held a sign that read “All are welcome.”
She learned about the event from 603 Equality, a new statewide LGBTQ+ advocacy organization that, among other things, alerts volunteers of protests and counter protests.
“When things are happening — good or bad — folks show up,” she said. “Folks lend their support and their voice.”