Bristol Drag queen children’s story hour disrupted by protests ~ July 29, 2022

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Protestors outside a library
Image caption, Police officers were called to keep the two sides of the protest apart

An event where a drag queen was due to read to children in Bristol has been postponed after protests outside.

The event at Henleaze Library, Bristol, went ahead without the host and a librarian read to children instead.

Bristol City Council said the group “needed lessons in tolerance and difference,” and said it would not tolerate discrimination.

Avon and Somerset Police arrested a woman in connection with an alleged assault on a man during the protest.

A similar event in Reading was disrupted by the same demonstrators on Monday.

Around 30 protesters arrived earlier, with a similar number of counter-protesters arriving soon after.

“Officers attended to facilitate peaceful protest and enable library staff and visitors, the event organisers and the wider community to go about their lawful business,” said a police spokesperson.

“A woman was arrested on suspicion of assault after refusing to give officers her details and later de-arrested after confirming her identity to officers.

“Officers will investigate the incident.”

One protester told the BBC they had achieved their aims and planned to protest at more events.

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Who’s behind the protests?

Alistair Coleman & Shayan Sardarizadeh, BBC Monitoring

These library protests have not come out of the blue.

They’ve been planned on social media by known groups who have switched from anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine protests to evidence-free claims that these events are being hosted by “paedophiles” and “child groomers”.

The personalities behind the demonstrations in Bristol and Reading are well known figures on conspiracy theory-based social media groups.

Many of them are known for attending protests outside Covid vaccination centres, attempting to shut them down with baseless claims that vaccines are killing people.

Among them are Alpha Men Assemble, a group of so-called Sovereign Citizens who believe they have the right to opt out of laws to which they do not consent, and swear in members as “Common Law Constables.”

Others represent a far-right group known as Independent Nationalist Network, which includes former members of the BNP and Patriotic Alternative.

Figures such as Tommy Robinson (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) and Jayda Fransen of Britain First, who recently polled 23 votes in the Wakefield by-election, have thrown their weight behind the protests.

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Ashton, a mother who had planned to attend the reading, said she had not expected to encounter protests and said that “there was no danger to any of our children” from such events.

A Bristol City Council spokesperson called the demonstration “unacceptable,” saying: “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.”

Protestors carrying signs reading 'leave the kids alone'
Image caption, Protesters claim the event is inappropriate for children
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