So as you read the story of how thugs enter a library and say they will prevent a event of reading to children and despite a 45 minute stand off with library staff asking them to leave, library security telling them to leave and the police coming and arguing with them, they get their way. Scared parents took their kids and left so the event was canceled. This is the brown shirts of the Republican party, scaring and threatening people to get their way and the police allowing it. This is stunning, it was a legal event supported by the patrons of the library and a gang of thugs was allowed to just stop it because they did not like it based on the rabid rantings of the Republicans in office and their rabid right followers. The accusations have no basis in fact, it is completely wrong. Yet this is the new fascist theocracy USA. Hugs
Minutes before a scheduled “Rainbow Storytime” program, about a half a dozen men walked into a reading room at the Tutt Branch of the St. Joseph County Public Library and demanded the event be shut down.
The men mostly wore black shirts and hats with yellow trim. At one point during the confrontation, one member unfurled a flag reading “Michiana Proud Boys,” appearing to identify the men as a local chapter of the white nationalist hate group.
In a video, the men badgered library staff and event attendees for around 45 minutes, calling the books that were to be read a “perversion” and belligerently asking “what gives you the right” to push sexuality on children.
Eventually the men left after being talked to by South Bend police officers and the library’s security personnel, though the reading event was postponed after most of the families went home.
“It is a shock and we are very disappointed an event celebrating LGBTQ+ communities was disrupted,” said Marissa Gebhard, communications manager for the library system. “Our staff are very affected by it.”
Gebhard added that the library will reschedule the event, which was planned in partnership with the Tree House Gender Resource Center, and will continue to offer programming “to all members of our community.”
“The library will always be a welcoming place for everyone of all viewpoints, so the library will continue to offer programs like this no matter what the response is,” Gebhard said.
She added that the books that were to be read were “carefully selected” and meant to promote gender inclusivity in an age-appropriate manner.
Though Monday’s standoff ended without violence, similar confrontations have played out in libraries and schools across the county in recent months as members of the Proud Boys have disrupted LGBTQ-themed events.
The Proud Boys has been designated as a hate group by multiple advocacy groups, and often engages in violence to further its white extremist agenda, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
Local activist Tonna Robinson, who works with the Indiana Mutual Aid Coalition and Black Lives Matter South Bend, said the local Proud Boys chapter has not been active to her knowledge, but said the group’s attempt to target an LGBTQ-themed event at the library is part of the group’s national goal.
“This is an organized effort to disrupt and target LGBTQ people nationwide,” Robinson said.
Robinson pointed out altercations at libraries in San Fransisco, Wilmington, N.C, and Dallas in the last month, as well as an incident in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho where nearly three dozen members of the white supremacist group Patriot Front were arrested for planning a riot at a pride parade.
Earlier this month, federal prosecutors charged former Proud Boys national chairman Henry “Enrique” Tarrio and four other group leaders with seditious conspiracy in connection to the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Locally, Gebhard couldn’t remember any other instances of library events being disrupted by white supremacist or any other groups.
A video posted by the Proud Boys appeared to depict the incident and begins by showing six men and their videographer walk into the library and stand in the middle of a room where staff were preparing for the Rainbow Storytime event. The event was set for 5 p.m. on Monday.
The men then accost a librarian setting up a whiteboard with questions about why she’s indoctrinating children with “sexuality.”
“You’re grooming these children’s minds,” one of the Proud Boys said. “This is our region and we will not have that in our region.”
A library patron then enters and begins debating with the group before a manager asks the group to leave. The group doesn’t and other staff and patrons come talk to and argue with the group for 20 to 30 minutes. One woman enters, identifies herself as a mother and also criticizes the event. Eventually, South Bend police officers show up and tell the group they can’t interfere the event.
Proud Boys members repeatedly deny disrupting the event, while also repeating the contradictory statement that they will not permit the event to take place.
At one point near the end of the video, an unidentified South Bend police officer tells the group they can remain at the library only if they quietly observe the event and not disrupt it. The members reiterate their intention to prevent the event, and the officer says, “You know the program is going to go on, right?” Less than a minute after police tell them they cannot stop the event, the video abruptly ends.
Rona Plummer, the St. Joseph Public Library’s director of branch services, arrived at the Tutt branch around 5:15 p.m. to a scene full of confusion as the Proud Boys confronted library staff, curious patrons and police. Plummer said library staff were concerned for their safety during the incident.
“The Proud Boys vocalized that the program was not going to happen, period. That’s where our concern was,” Plummer said. “It was very disruptive and it changed what was supposed to be a pleasant, positive experience into a confusing and negative experience.”
Gebhard and Plummer said they didn’t see any violence and don’t believe members of the Proud Boys were carrying weapons.
South Bend Police Department logs list the incident as a miscellaneous public report and show no arrests were made. A representative with the department did not respond to a message from The Tribune seeking more information about the incident.
Gebhard said the library has two security officers stationed at library’s main branch in downtown South Bend, as well as a few other officers at different branches. After Monday, library leadership is considering changes to security, Gebhard said, but nothing has been finalized.