Police and security guards were forced to limit access to a city centre library after a protest, and counter protest, relating to a drag queen storytelling event aimed at children took over the area.

This morning, the Oxfordshire County Library in the Westgate Centre hosted Drag Queen Story Hour, a storytelling event for children aged between three and eight lead by drag performer Aida H Dee.

The event is described as engaging “your child's creativity and love for reading stories by giving them a brand-new, positive experience, one page at a time”.

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Oxford Mail: Protesters and counter protesters hold a "welcome groomers" banner outside the Westgate Centre library Protesters and counter protesters hold a "welcome groomers" banner outside the Westgate Centre library (Image: Newsquest)

Drag Queen Story Hour was set to begin at 11am but more than an hour before it started protesters, who are against the event, and counter protesters, who are for event going ahead, were on the scene.

Around 20 demonstrators held a large banner which read “groomers welcome”, shouted “shame” at the counter protesters and said the event was for “paedophiles and groomers”.

Protest organiser Firas Movdad said he organised the demonstration because “children need to be protected” from such events.

He said: “It sets them on a pathway to decide that they are queer or gender non-conforming.

Oxford Mail:  Firas Movdad chanted "shame" at members of the LGBTQ community Firas Movdad chanted "shame" at members of the LGBTQ community (Image: Newsquest)

He added he believes LGBTQ+ people are trying to enforce “new forms of family that are not normal”.

In contrast, more than 150 counter protesters played music including Lizzo and Britney Spears, waved pride flags and chanted “say it loud, say it clear, drag queens are welcome here”.  

Chair of Oxford Pride Debbie Brixey told the Oxford Mail the pride group was counter protesting because “children need LGBTQ+ role models, so they know they can be included”.

She added: “We believe children should be allowed to go to events like this. They do not come out of the womb hating, they are taught to hate.”  

Oxford Mail: Hundreds of counter protesters outside the Westgate CentreHundreds of counter protesters outside the Westgate Centre (Image: Newsquest)

A spokesperson for Oxfordshire County Council, which oversees the Westgate Centre library, said the council was aware “other areas have encountered some issues related to people unhappy about the event”.

Thus the county council decided to close access to library unless attendees had advance tickets, in order ensure the safety of the performer and the young children attending.

The spokesperson added: “We are confident that this is appropriate and well-suited for the advertised age groups of 3-8 years old under parental guidance, and that it is being delivered by professional children's entertainers and literary enthusiasts.

Oxford Mail: The library was forced to limit access The library was forced to limit access (Image: Newsquest)

“The events have been appropriately risk assessed and safeguarding measures are in place.

“Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from parents who have attended previous performances elsewhere and we are sure it will prove to be an enjoyable event for everyone.”


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This story was written by Sophie Perry. She joined the team in 2021 as a digital reporter.

You can get in touch with her by emailing: sophie.perry@newsquest.co.uk

Follow her on Twitter @itssophieperry

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