Supporters stand up to Proud Boys protesters at ‘Drag Queen Story Hour’ at Teatotaller cafe 

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  • Counter protester Jake Maxwell stands among the Proud Boys in front of the Teatotaller Cafe on Sunday, November 13, 2022 to protest the children’s book reading by Juicy Garland. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Jake Maxwell, the parent of a transgender daughter, stands up to the Proud Boys in front of the Teatotaller Cafe on Sunday during a children’s book reading by drag queen Juicy Garland. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Jessica Goff holds a sign in front of the Proud Boys who came to protest Juicy Garland, who came to the Teatotaller Cafe for a children’s book reading on Sunday, November 13, 2022. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Counter protester Jake Maxwell stands among the Proud Boys in front of the Teatotaller Cafe on Sunday, November 13, 2022 to protest the children’s book reading by Juicy Garland. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Counter protesters, led by Holly Smith (center), drown out the Proud Boys that showed up to protest the children’s book reading by Juicy Garland at the Teatotaller Cafe in downtown Concord on Sunday. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Counter protester Jake Maxwell stands among the Proud Boys in front of the Teatotaller Cafe on Sunday, November 13, 2022 to protest the children’€s book reading by Juicy Garland. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Counter protester Jake Maxwell stands among the Proud Boys in front of the Teatotaller Cafe on Sunday, November 13, 2022 to protest the children’€s book reading by Juicy Garland. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Proud Boy protesters who declined to give their names protest outside the Teatotaller Cafe on Sunday.

  • Proud Boy protesters who declined to give their names protest outside the Teatotaller Cafe on Sunday, November 13, 2022. They showed up when they learned that Juicy Garland would be reading to children at the cafe. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Holly Smith waves a diversity flag at traffic going down Main Street in downtown Concord in front of the Teatotaller Cafe in support of Juicy Garland reading a children’s book on Sunday, November 13, 2022. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Kathleen Iselin came all the way from Vermont to protest the children’s book reading at the Teatotaller Cafe in downtown Concord on Sunday, November 13, 2022. Iselin and her husband, Jay, said they did not know that the Proud Boys were going to be protesting as well. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Proud Boys and counter protesters outside the Teatotaller Cafe in downtown Concord on Sunday, November 13, 2022. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Holly Smith holds a bullhorn at traffic going down Main Street in downtown Concord in front of the Teatotaller Cafe in support of Juicy Garland reading a children’€™s book on Sunday, November 13, 2022. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Kathleen Iselin and her husband, Jay, came all the way from Vermont to protest the children’s book reading at the Teatotaller Cafe in downtown Concord on Sunday, November 13, 2022. Iselin said they did not know that the Proud Boys were going to be protesting as well. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Proud Boys and counter protesters outside the Teatotaller Cafe in downtown Concord on Sunday.

  • Juicy Garland outside the Teatotaller Cafe after reading a children’€™s book on Sunday. Several Proud Boys and others came to protest.

Monitor staff
Published: 11/14/2022 5:23:26 PM

Inside the Teatotaller cafe and bakery Sunday morning in Concord, drag queen Juicy Garland prepared to read educational science and adventure books to children and their families.

Outside the “queer hipster” coffee shop on Main Street, armed white nationalists and a few faith-based religious groups held signs and shouted into a bullhorn in protest. They were met ny a much larger group of counter-protesters – including elected Concord officials – who were there to support the city’s LGBTQ community and equipped with their own signs and bullhorn.

Teatotaller had invited Garland to read to the children as part of its effort to create an inclusive space for Concord’s LGBTQ youth.

“With the exposure to bigotry that kids often experience, I want to make sure we are providing opportunities for kids to be exposed to all different kinds of people,” said Garland, who declined to provide a real name for safety reasons. “It’s a fun, educational event designed to be family-friendly and all of these claims of grooming and obscene behavior during these events is just aggravating.”

Protestors nationwide have targeted similar “drag queen story hour” events, saying they expose children to sexualized content that is inappropriate for their age.

Several of the protestors were affiliated with the Proud Boys, a right-wing male extremist group, known for wearing black and yellow outfits and covering their faces with masks. They refused to comment or be identified.

They held signs that read, “Stop Grooming Kids,” and “Stop The Sexualization Of Children.”

“It’s emotional and hard having people yelling at you about being horrible people and groomers,” said 603 Equality board member Jessica Goff, who stood outside the cafe with others and blocked the windows with signs. “I think about how scary it can be for us to stand in front of a bunch of Proud Boys yelling at us with guns. There were a lot of families that had to walk by that and go into that building and they still did it. I am proud of them for that.”

603 Equality, a growing statewide organization, sent out a call for its supporters to show up to the cafe and demonstrate a more positive and inclusive message.

They held signs that read, “Love Is Greater Than Hate,” and “Let’s Read Together And Learn.”

“I think the kids were aware that something was going on but we had a lot of us out front with rainbows on, which helped make the situation feel safe to everyone,” Goff said. “It’s kind of weird, the irony of them saying ‘protect the children’ as they yell swears at a building with children in it.”

Jake Maxwell, who is the parent of a transgender daughter, joined her and got as close as he could to members of the Proud Boys, who stood on top of the granite blocks lining Main Street.

“I was a little bit on edge but I didn’t interact with them and I didn’t hear what they said to me,” Maxwell said. “As a white, straight, cisgender male, I have all of the advantages in the world. No one challenges me about my existence. What bothered me about the Proud Boys was that their whole thing was their willingness to use aggression to push people out of existence and intimidate people out of being themselves. I can’t stand by and watch that happen.”

Among those supporting the city’s LGBTQ community were city councilors Byron Champlain, Fred Keach, Jennifer Kretovic, Karen McNamara, Stacey Brown and Zandra Rice Hawkins, Concord School Board member Jonathan Weinberg, incoming Concord School Board members Cara Meeker and Sarah Robinson and Merrimack Valley School Board members Jesse Wheeler Russell and Sally Hirsch-Dickinson.

“The real story is how many Concord community members showed up in support of our LGBTQ friends and family,” Rice Hawkins said in a text to the Monitor.

Garland appreciated the support.

“The Concord community itself really stood up and defended the story hour and overwhelmed these white national protestors,” Garland said.

While the Proud Boys were a focal point, others said they came to show their disapproval.

“I feel very strongly about what’s going on with this business inviting families and children to engage in perverted sexual activity,” said Kathleen Iselin of Vermont. “Jesus Christ came to save sinners and to destroy the works of evil. We are here to make a statement and we will not stand by and watch sinful ways pervert our communities, our state, our region or our nation.”

Terese Grinnell of Concord said she attended the event out of concern for the safety of the children. She said she supports the LGBTQ+ community and has family members who identify as queer but believes events like drag queen story hour are wrong.

“I wasn’t there out of protest, I was there out of my own convictions and feeling as though children calling an adult male in high heels ‘Juicy’ is not appropriate,” Grinnell said. “If I feel like a child is being placed into something that is not healthy, it’s hard for me not to stand up to that. I tried to do what was right for the children in the community.”

She said well-meaning parents could be doing harm to their children.

“There are a lot of parents that are not understanding the risk to their children,” said Grinnell. “We don’t allow someone that has been drinking to get in a car with their children and drive off and say ‘It’s the parent, it’s their choice to do that,’ we say ‘Oh, that doesn’t look safe.’ There are boundaries.”

Despite her concerns for the children of the Concord community, she has not raised them to city officials, she said. But she has worked with state representatives, state legislatures and state senators.

“Ultimately, the point of this event for me was to do two things: have a family-friendly promotion for literacy event and get the kids excited about science,” said Garland, who has an educational background teaching science to children with disabilities. “I spent most of my Saturday putting crafts together for the kids and going through stories.”

When the stories were finished, Garland distributed craft kits to children and encouraged families to stay and build planets together.

“Of course, hearing that people are threatening the cafe and harassing me is hard, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been,” Garland continued. “But I would 100% do this again; I am the kind of person who has always tried to live my life as honestly as I can and when I see there are people taking these bad faith positions toward me and the communities I am part of, it encourages me to continue doing what I am doing.”




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