Reflections on attending the DQSH Protest

Last Saturday I attended the Clearview Library Drag Queen Story Hour as a counter-protester. This was my first time ever making a political sign and exercising my First Amendment rights in this way, and was quite an interesting experience.

The story hour itself was a registration-required event, and had filled up in the prior week. Apparently there was a 200 person waiting list (the largest room in the library had a max occupancy of 80). Outside were about 100 people in the designated “free speech zone” – an area 30 feet from the entrance to permit library patrons and story hour participants to arrive. Of the 100, it was about a 1/3 to 2/3 split between protesters against the event and supporters/counter-protesters.

Protesters seemed to fall into two large camps: people protesting on religious/moral grounds, with signs citing biblical verses and various religious and moral messages about corrupting children, as well as conservatives there that were “fighting the Left”. It was questionable as to whether some of the protesters were part of the Alt-Right, but some of the protesters seemed to be part of some larger conservative-based movement.

As for the supporters, there were also 2 segments: those drawing attention to the LGBTQ issues, counter-protesting the intolerance, as well as those generally supporting the library, freedom of speech, and general opposition to the protesters. I would count myself among the latter group, but my nuanced position seemed to confuse people on both sides at some point.

When I got there at 9:45, it wasn’t clear where people were standing, so I just stood on the corner and held up my signs. A lot of people who would later stand with the “against” protesters told me they liked my signs and were conversing with me. Apparently, some event supporters yelled obscenities at me as well, but I didn’t hear them. Then when the lines became apparent and I saw someone I knew, I went and stood next to her, at which point I had a bunch of supporters come up and apologize to me. A lot of the protesters suddenly had problems with my signs. As the morning progressed, a few supporters from the back came up to me and said they liked my signs.

The protests were mostly civil, both sides chanting back and forth. There were a few minor confrontations, but the police did an excellent job making their presence known without interfering or infringing the free speech rights of everyone. Truth be told, I think both sides had some chants and actions that were bad looks. Protests are a blunt instrument, and when you remove nuance, you give way to stereotypes to take hold. You could see the protesters demonize the supporters as religious heretics that were enabling child endangerment, while the supporters generalized the protesters as religious nuts and Alt-Right hate groups.

I didn’t take part in any of the chants and mainly stood silently unless someone directly yelled at me about my sign, at which point I would engage back with them. One of the protesters that engaged with me finally said he couldn’t disagree with my points, so that was kinda cool. At the end of the event when the supporters disbanded, I walked back to my car past the police chief who shook my hand, then by a few of the “Don’t tread on me” protesters. I told them to have a good day and they said: “you too”.

In the end, I think this was a worthwhile event for our community. Diverse programming was offered at the library unimpeded, and there was a lively conversation about culture, morals, and freedom outside of the library. I realize that people may feel uncomfortable about social disruption, but protests (and counter protests) and demonstration are integral parts of our American heritage. Just because conversations don’t happen in the public square doesn’t mean that they’re not taking place, these events just enable communities to bring these views into the light for all to see.

Keep Liberty In Our Library: An Open Letter to Mayor Melendez of Windsor

Dear Mayor Melendez,

I am writing to express my concern regarding efforts to restrict the freedom of your residents that wish to participate in programming at the Clearview Library. After watching events unfold over the last month, it appears that you and some local officials are attempting to ram through a particular point of view over the civil liberties of our neighbors.

Freedom and liberty are the bedrocks of our society. As elected officials, you have a duty to protect all viewpoints, even those that may make some feel uncomfortable. While I may personally have no interest in attending the Drag Queen Story Hour, I also recognize that the Clearview Library District is chartered with offering diverse programming to all parts of our community, and understand that not all library services and events must appeal to a majority of residents. With a Facebook Event RSVP that exceeds the capacity of the library’s large meeting room, a significant level of interest has been met to justify this programming. If no laws are being broken, and no hate is being advocated, then it is up to you as an elected official to protect its freedom and respect its right to seek programming and resources.

Suppose the library heeds your mayoral advice and cancels the event: should they then proceed to ban all programming that is mildly controversial? Shall we strip the library of all books and movies that may contain people dressed outside of their biological gender?  If a biological man walked into the library wearing a dress, should he be barred from entering? Do we hold the same standard against women wearing outfits that challenges the Town Board’s definition of “modesty”? Shall the library also ban resources that do not conform to the moral view of current town leadership? Should the library require approval from town and school boards before community groups/and or political clubs can gather?  Is there a similar policy in place for our Rec Center and parks? By publicly placing your elected thumb on the scale, you are creating a slippery slope on the path towards repression and government censorship, resulting in potentially costly legal challenges for our town.

As the father of two young girls, I can sympathize with parents that object on the grounds of avoiding exposure to their children.  However, the consequence of participating in a free society is that our kids will likely encounter people and ideas that are in conflict with their parents’ world-view.  Just last month I took my 5-year-old to an Eagles game and had to spend the first period explaining what “sucks” means and why the crowd was chanting those words.  The reality is that parents are challenged with turning those occurrences into teachable moments. We must also respect those parents that see this event as an opportunity to further their child’s exposure to the gender identity conversation. Of course, to parents that wish to limit exposure, there remains the obvious remedy: do not attend. It is not the role of government to shield the community from objectionable viewpoints, especially when suppressing the rights of others.

I challenge you and our leaders to do what’s right, rather than simply pleasing the population of those aligned with your ideals. Please do not abuse your stewardship by seizing the power of society and administering a top-down implementation of your morality, especially at the expense of law-abiding groups in our community. These actions are far more damaging to our communal fabric than any single library event.

Sincerely,

Jeromey Balderrama

Worth Reading: Federal VIP Penn

tsa

Leave it to a Vegas entertainer to help us bring sanity into this TSA situation.

Penn Jillette (from Penn & Teller fame) recounted the last time he went through Vegas’ McCarran airport and opting for the security pat-down:

Last Thursday I was flying to LA on the Midnight flight. I went through security my usual sour stuff. I beeped, of course, and was shuttled to the "toss-em" line. A security guy came over. I assumed the position. I had a button up shirt on that was untucked. He reached around while he was behind me and grabbed around my front pocket. I guess he was going for my flashlight, but the area could have loosely been called "crotch." I said, "You have to ask me before you touch me or it’s assault."

.

They sent a guy over and I said that I’d like to register a complaint. I insisted on his name and badge number. I filled it out with my name. The supervisor, I think trying to intimidate me, asked for my license, and I gave it to him happily as he wrote down information. I kept saying, "Please get the police," and they kept saying, "You’re free to go, we don’t need the police." I insisted and they got a higher up, female, supervisor. I was polite, cold, and a little funny. "Anyone is welcome to grab my crotch, I don’t require dinner and a movie, just ask me. Is that asking too much? You wanna grab my crotch, please ask. Does that seem like a crazy person to you?" I had about 4 of them standing around. Finally Metro PD shows up. It’s really interesting. First of all, the cop is a BIG P&T fan and that ain’t hurting. Second, I get the vibe that he is WAY sick of these federal leather-sniffers. He has that vibe that real cops have toward renta-cops. This is working WAY to my advantage, so I play it.

The whole article is worth reading. I won’t spoil the ending, but it looks like Penn is willing to fight the good fight on these invasive procedures.