Dozens of protesters swarmed a drag queen storytelling event at the Tate Britain art gallery in London on Saturday, leading to a face-off between two groups.
The demonstration, organized by the right-wing Patriotic Alternative group, involved waving flags that read “No drag for kids!” and “Leave our kids alone!”.
Meanwhile, pro-drag demonstrators were challenged by the far-left group Stand Up To Racism who barricaded the gallery to support the event. The latter group chanted “What are you so afraid of? It’s just wigs and makeup”.
According to the state-run BBC, one person was arrested for making a racially aggravated comment toward a police officer outside the gallery.
Five people managed to enter the gallery, causing disruption in some parts of the building. However, the book reading session by Aida H Dee, who describes themselves as an “ADHD, neurodivergent, queer hero of literature, theatre, and children’s entertainment”, was not affected. Dee reportedly held three successful storytelling sessions despite the protests outside.
"We fight to tell the stories that our government would try to ban if they had the chance," Drag Queen Story Hour UK tweeted.
A pro-drag demonstrator, Alex, told the BBC that she was protesting against the impingement on LGBTQ people’s rights. “They are protesting about something truly wonderful that is just about expression and art and creativity,” Alex said. “I believe that actually panto, for example, has been a part of all entertainment forever and it fundamentally involves men in dresses telling stories to children”.
Anti-drag protester Cheska told the outlet that she believed drag queens were “not suitable” for children. “We have concerns because we feel that the costume Aida H Dee wears is sexually inappropriate,” Cheska said. “We’re here because we feel that drag queens are great but for people over 18. We feel like they are not suitable for anyone under 18”.
Debates over the appropriateness of drag queen events for children have flared up in recent months as progressive activists, including President Joe Biden, seek to make them a rite of passage for impresisonable young people.
Similar protests have taken place outside New York City and other major U.S. cities. Last week, Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed she would sign legislation that would ban drag shows from public property in the state.