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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – Several protesters showed up at the Pine Valley branch of the New Hanover County Public Library during a Pride Storytime event on Tuesday, June 21.

Pride Storytime included two children’s books, ‘Daddy and Daddy’ and ‘Heather Has Two Mommies’, as well as an activity for children to create their own family photo frame.

A statement from the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office said protesters gathered outside the library before entering a building. A deputy was called to the library for a disturbance, and a supervisor from the sheriff’s office is said to have stood outside the room where the Storytime program was taking place to keep protesters out.

“A supervisor from the sheriff’s office entered the library and positioned himself between the private room where the reading was held and the protesters. The supervisor ordered the protesters that they were not allowed to enter the room. At no time were sheriff’s deputies witnessed and no library staff reported any of the protesters causing a disturbance in the library or attempting to enter the private room holding the reading. After the reading, all attendees left the library without incident,” the NHCSO wrote in a statement.

A statement from Linda Thompson, the county’s director of diversity and equity, also says no disturbances occurred inside the building. But, the statement differs from the account presented by the statement from the sheriff’s office. Thompson’s statement says protesters did not enter the building until after the Storytime program ended.

“Library staff worked in conjunction with Sheriff’s Deputies throughout the event and also coordinated safety protocols in advance to help ensure patrons were safe and able to participate in activities without interruption, while respecting the public’s right to demonstrate outside. . Before and during the Storytime event, deputies and library staff worked to ensure protesters did not block the entrance to the library so patrons could enter. And after the Storytime program ended, several members of the group of protesters wanted to enter. Any member of the public is permitted inside the building as long as they do not actively protest or disturb other patrons, based on the library’s code of conduct. The library manager walked in with them, and the deputies quickly made their way to Storytime’s door, to ensure the safety of patrons and library staff who were still in the room. Members of the protest group were not allowed to enter the closed room where the event took place and where families were still present, and there was no disturbance inside the building. Sheriff’s deputies and library staff also assisted parents and children who were still present (some had already left) on where to exit the library after the event. Parents and children were at no time in danger. The county celebrates all people, cultures, sexes and gender identities and will continue to do so through our events, programs and actions,” Thompson’s statement said.

Photos sent to WECT by parents and witnesses inside the library show protesters inside the library and standing outside the room. WECT has received several messages indicating that an altercation has taken place. Witnesses also said some of the protesters appeared to be part of the Proud Boys, a far-right group.

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