Huntington Woods readies for protests over upcoming Drag Queen Story Time
By Mike McConnell
Royal Oak Tribune
Huntington Woods police are coordinating with nearby police agencies as two out-of-state groups plan to protest the library’s Drag Queen Story Time later this month.
In a message to residents, Mayor Bob Paul said the groups – Mass Resistance and Warriors for Christ – disagree with drag queens reading stories to children.
“I want to assure you that the City Commission is unanimously supportive of the program,” Paul said, “as are a majority of residents and we will not be influenced by outside organizations that do not share our values … the Public Safety Department is taking these protests very seriously.”
City officials have already gotten what City Manager Amy Sullivan calls homophobic calls from Mass Resistance, a self-described international pro-family group headquartered in Massachusetts.
Warriors for Christ church in Tennessee is headed by its pastor, Rev. Rich Penkoski, and has reportedly protested other drag queen story time events in other states.
A website, ChristianHeadlines.com, last year reported that Facebook removed the Warriors for Christ page when it was based in West Virginia for violating community standards on bullying and hate speech. The group has since established another Facebook page.
The Huntington Woods Library started the Drag Queen Story Time over a year ago and officials said it has been popular with the community and is designed to promote diversity.
More than 100 tickets for the limited seating at the Jan. 26 story time have already been sold.
“I believe (the protests) have made the program more popular,” said City Commissioner Joe Rozell, adding the event is sold out. “Our public safety department is working on a plan to make sure protesters don’t interfere in any way with folks’ ability to use the library or attend the story time.”
The theme for the upcoming story time is “I Like Me!” Books that are scheduled to be read to children include “I’m going to Like Me” by Jamie Lee Curtis, “Be Who You Are” by Todd Parr, and “What’s the Difference” by Doyin Richards.
City officials said they have no idea how many protesters my show up to oppose the reading program.
Protesters will not be allowed into the area where the story time takes place.
“We’re looking at (designating) a place where people can protest and a place where the story time will be held,” Sullivan said.
Because the number of people registered for the reading event is so high it may be moved to the city’s recreation center, as it was when the story time first started and 100 people showed up.
Controversy over the program gained momentum early last month.
Former City Commissioner Allison Iverson, in an email to a library official, first opposed the story time shortly before it started, saying it was better suited to adults than children.
She has moved to another city and did not attend her last scheduled City Commission meeting Dec. 18 after Mass Resistance members and sympathizers began contacting officials to protest the story time.
Hundreds of people showed up at the meeting. Rozell said Iverson had email exchanges with Mass Resistance over the story time program and urged that people needed to show up at the commission meeting to oppose it.
Very few of the roughly 300 people at the commission meeting were against Drag Queen Story Time, Rozell said.
“Hundreds of residents turned out and 99 percent of the feedback we received was in favor of keeping the program,” he said. “I don’t think these outside groups are finding a lot of sympathy in the city.”