MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — A Montgomery County drag queen storybook hour was targeted by members of the far-right group the Proud Boys, Saturday, according to police, advocates, and a local council woman.
The standoff between the Proud Boys and supporters of the reading event ended with one person bleeding from the face.
The Montgomery County Department of Police (MCPD), has confirmed that Proud Boys showed up at Veteran's Plaza in Silver Spring and a confrontation happened just after 1 p.m.
Montgomery County Councilwoman Kristin Mink claims the far-right, all-male group arrived and tried to scare families and children away from attending the Drag Story Hour at Loyalty Books. She claims the community formed "a wall of safety and support" and that the children who were attending the event were none the wiser.
"We will never back down," the councilwoman wrote on Twitter.
John Zittrauer is one of the people who showed up to shield children from the protest. He's a volunteer with the "Parasol Patrol," a group that uses brightly coulored umbrellas to form that barrier.
"Our community is large and welcoming and full of love and acceptance, and nothing is going to slow that down," Zittrauer told WUSA9 Monday. He explained the group was welcoming families at the event when a dozen or so Proud Boys showed up and tried to enter the store.
"Our main goal was to make sure that nobody got in and disrupted the event," Zittrauer said, "and so we were kind of holding a wall to make sure that didn't happen and there was some chaos."
Then something, or someone, hit Zittrauer in the face.
MCPD said officers were called to disperse the crowd and no injuries were reported. However, Mink took to Twitter to share photos of the confrontation, including one of a person with a bloody nose.
She says the Proud Boys claimed to have been there to "protect children" as she shared photos of the event on Twitter.
Mink continued a thread on Twitter, sharing photos and videos of the Proud Boys who attended the event.
She claims the Proud Boys became violent, kicking and pushing while shouting at families on megaphones, while the community held the line and drowned them out with music and cheers.
"I’ve gotten some more footage and images of us holding the line as the Proud Boys attempted to reach the doors, destroying umbrellas and assaulting ppl," she wrote.
One of the videos shows a man stomping on her foot before kicking her and she recorded the confrontation.
According to MCPD, no arrests were made following the confrontation.
Mink says anyone who wants to support the community following the violent confrontation can be added to the email list for the local chapter of the Parasol Patrol, a group that aims to shield people from protesters. Those who wish to support Loyalty Books are encouraged to purchase from the store.
"This lovingly curated, welcoming, local, Black- and queer-owned bookshop put up with a lot today to host a beautiful event," Mink said.
The bookstore tweeted Sunday morning saying the store was under attack by a hate group who tried to force their way into the store during the Drag Queen Story Hour. The store thanked the Parasol Patrol and the Montgomery County chapter of Drag Story Hour for not only holding the group back, but for cheering and singing joyfully "in the face of hate speech and disgusting threats."
"Because of their efforts the children inside the store got to enjoy doing the Hokey Pokey, hearing beautiful books read aloud, basking in the presence of the wonderful @CharChateau," the store tweeted. "They did not have to hear about bodily mutilation, or listen to the slurs and the unhinged, graphic accusations. We are incredibly grateful to the volunteers and our wonderful Drag Queen for focusing on joy and safety. "
Loyalty Books says they will continue to host the Drag Queen Story Hour because there is no hate or violence strong than the love of the community.
"We love our kiddos and our queer, BIPOC, disabled, local community that makes Loyalty all it is."
According to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, in 2022, Proud Boys joined or led anti-LGBTQ protests held across the country once a week, on average.
The Proud Boys have been deemed a Hate Group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Montgomery County tracked 11 hate crimes in 2022. There have already been five so far in 2023. Based on past data, the County estimates one out of every 10 hate crimes in 2023 will be against LGBTQ individuals.
One woman died from the fire and 15 other people were hospitalized due to the fire in Downtown Silver Spring. Over 400 people have been displaced.
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