‘I felt very unsafe’: Proud Boys show up at children’s library event

Demonstrators protest pride storytime event; county officials say there was “no disturbance inside the building”
Published: Jun. 23, 2022 at 7:02 AM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT/Gray News) - A North Carolina library was hosting a Pride storytime event on Tuesday when a group of Proud Boys, far-right extremists, showed up outside of the event room.

Emily Jones was there with her 1-year-old daughter. She told WECT that she attends the storytime events often at the library.

“I had been talking about it for weeks. I was so happy that the library was having this inclusive environment for us, and it was very disappointing. It was so disappointing to see it unfold the way that it did,” Jones said.

She was particularly excited about this one, but her excitement quickly turned into panic.

“I get it’s a public space, so if people are holding signs outside and they are being peaceful, even if I don’t agree with the things that they are saying, I don’t feel necessarily like my life is in danger. But when a group of known violent people, you know, at that point when those people show up and they’re coming into the library and trying to disrupt the storytime, that’s when I felt unsafe,” Jones said. “And they’re doing that on purpose for sure to intimidate people.”

When Jones arrived for the storytime, she said she only saw a handful of peaceful protestors outside, but not any Proud Boys.

“They were dressed, what I would describe as like, normally,” Jones said. “I didn’t feel threatened by their attire. They were holding signs that said things like, ‘the library is responsible for child abuse,’ and ‘keep pornography out of our libraries.’”

About 45 minutes later, things changed.

“And then I heard some commotion outside. I remember seeing one guy’s face on the glass, and he was glaring at us, and trying to antagonize us. And a group of probably I would say, like maybe six or so others, they kind of paraded down the hall, like they were very clearly trying to antagonize us,” Jones said.

The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office had deputies at the event to prevent the Proud Boys from entering the room.

Angie Kahney was in the hallway outside of the event room when the Proud Boys walked in. She says the group was loud and disruptive, but in a statement, the sheriff’s office says there was no disturbance.

“They were like yelling obscenities about how their tax money was being spent on pornography and drag queens,” Kahney said. “There was shouting. It was loud. Like their attempt was to intimidate and create a disruption and that’s exactly what they did.”

Jones says the group “definitely disturbed us.”

The sheriff’s office added because it’s a public place, there was no need for the Proud Boys to be removed.

The sheriff’s office declined an on-camera interview, but did release a statement from Sheriff McMahon that reads: “I took an oath not to uphold opinions, but to uphold the law, which is exactly what my supervisor and deputies did.”

Jones says even 24 hours later, she still has an uneasy feeling about how the incident panned out.

“It’s so terrifying that they were just able to show up in the middle of an event and come in the library like that and just walk straight back there to that room. That was very scary. I feel very thankful that nothing worse happened, for sure,” she said.

A spokesperson for the county said that the library had extra staff and volunteers present at the event. The library also coordinated with the sheriff’s office to help ensure the safety of everyone.

“There was pre-planning that took place to help ensure the environment inside the event was positive and safe for all attendees,” the spokesperson said.

Copyright 2022 WECT via Gray Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved.