“I just hope that people know that there is a lot more support than there is hate in the world.”

Debee Tlumacki
The Taunton Library on Pleasant Street in Taunton.

As families streamed into Taunton Public Library for a drag queen story hour Saturday morning, Monica Moore — dressed to the nines — was there to greet them. Her young audience sat rapt as she settled in, cracked open a picture book, and began to read. 

Soon, masked men entered the room. Moore said they called her derogatory names: Pedophile, groomer. More were gathered outside, chanting the name of a hate group and yelling anti-pedophile slogans, according to The Boston Globe

On social media, members of the neo-Nazi group NSC-131 took credit for interrupting the story hour, the Globe reported. Officials have not confirmed the group’s participation. 

“It was such an innocent thing that happened to go very bad, very quickly,” Moore said in an interview with Boston.com. 

How it happened

The Taunton Police Department said officers were already stationed at the library prior to the event, and additional officers were dispatched around 10:23 a.m. Five protesters entered the story hour, and those who were verbally disruptive were escorted out, the department said, though it could not provide an exact tally.

“Some parents left with their children, and I don’t blame them for that, because it was scary for everybody involved,” Moore recalled. 

She continued to read over the heckles and jeers, asking that her fiancé and best friend — who had shown up to support her — be discreetly escorted from the room. 

“I was sitting in there, and all I could think about was the what-ifs,” she said, adding that her mind flashed to the Colorado Springs shooting and other attacks on LGBTQ+ communities.

The protesters dispersed on their own around 11:10 a.m., Taunton police said. When story hour ended, officers ensured Moore made it out of the building safely. 

‘It’s OK to be who you are’

Drag story hours — which began as a way to show children inclusion and representation — have become something of a fixation for the far-right, with protests and disturbances occurring nationwide.

“We’re not teaching them to be a certain way — and that’s what [critics] believe we’re doing, [that] we’re telling them how to be gay or how to be transgender or how to be a drag queen,” Moore said. “That’s not true, because I’m reading age-appropriate books, and I’m just being there as myself.”

She added: “It just shows these children that it’s OK to be who you are, and it’s OK that other people are different from you.”

Moore described Saturday’s incident as “traumatizing” for everyone involved. 

“I know some kids were still very scared, and I was getting messages the next day from parents saying, like, ‘I am so sorry this happened to you. My child has been having a hard time since this happened. They think that the masked men are going to come to their school,’” she said. 

The community responds

In a statement, Taunton Mayor Shaunna O’Connell said she “strongly condemn[s] the hateful speech and intimidating tactics of these cowardly protestors.”

“People have the right to disagree and to protest, but it must be done respectfully and lawfully,” O’Connell said.

She added that her office is working closely with police, the South Coast LGBTQ+ Network, and library staff to ensure residents’ and library visitors’ ongoing safety. The Taunton Public Library did not return a request for comment.

The South Coast LGBTQ+ Network, the event’s organizer, announced it will hold a planning meeting on Feb. 11 to discuss ways to “show a unified, peaceful front” against any future acts of aggression. 

Moore called for better protection and safety planning moving forward, questioning how masked men could be allowed to “terrorize” a children’s story hour and leave without consequence.

But she emphasized that she’ll be back for more story hours in the future. 

“I just hope that people know that there is a lot more support than there is hate in the world,” Moore said.

In a statement posted to Facebook, the South Coast LGBTQ+ Network shared a similarly optimistic stance.

“This incident will not deter the Network from our mission to help LGBTQ+ individuals celebrate their true selves and realize their full potential,” the statement read. “If anything, it has only made us more determined.”


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