There was a palatable sense of relief on Saturday, as a planned anti-drag protest at the Calgary Public Library’s Giuffre Family Library branch failed to materialize.
Around 40 counter-protesters, stylized on social media as drag defenders, gathered prior to the 1 p.m. Reading with Royalty event.
Had the planned protest materialized, it would have been the second anti-drag protest held in a week. Protesters had previously attempted to disrupt an all ages drag show at The Rec Room in northeast Calgary, on Jan. 15.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to be doing this still,” said Shane Onyou, one of the readers for the event.
“It feels like we’ve kind of slipped backwards, but the great thing is we have great tremendous amount of support now.”
Counter-protest organizer Alyssa Bradac said that she did so because of the aggressive response that some of her friends received at previous drag story times.
“There were some really aggressive protesters to the point where one of the drag performers did not feel comfortable going in and doing the program,” Bradac said.
“Obviously, I think that’s unconscionable, especially for a program that is just literally celebrating literacy, and and helping children to embrace who they are in all of their fullness.”
She called the lack of protesters showing up to the Reading with Royalty event an amazing and wonderful thing. Although, said Bradac, the need to continue to counter-protest would continue as long as their is opposition to them.
“I don’t know where they are, I don’t know if it was just like a lot of talk, but the fact that our community was so willing to just come out and be like ‘yeah, we’re here’ I think is fantastic,” Bradac said.
“We have so many problems in the world that I don’t think drag story times are one of them.”
LWC was able to independently confirm that some attendees at the Jan. 15 protest, were instead attending the regular Saturday anti-government anti-mandate protest in the Downtown Core.
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Counter-protesters feel like drag protests are about more than just drag
Onyou called what the protesters have said at various anti-drag protests held in the city as hate directed towards marginalized groups.
“I think that people are angry, and I think there’s a lot of untreated issues out there around the anger, and they have nowhere to direct it to so they’re they’re picking on marginalized groups,” Onyou said.
“People that were yelling in their backyards are now yelling on the streets, and for us, we’re not going back into the closet so they have to go back into their backyards.”
The lack of attendance by protesters at the event was a sign that perhaps they’ve begun to self-reflect on bigoted attitudes, said Michelle Robinson, host of Native Calgarian.
“My hope is is that people will start seeing we need to create safe spaces for our LGBTQ+ community, and hopefully, we’ll not have to do this anymore other than to just to go in and enjoy,” she said.
She said it was heartening to see the number of people that came out to make the event a safe one for patrons of the library.
“I’m really happy because I want my daughter to grow up in a safer and community in a safer environment,” Robinson said.