Options Magazine visited a defensive action to protect children and Queer people from extremists attempting to disrupt Drag Story Time at Fall River Public Library. Who we found there standing up for Queer and Trans lives might surprise you.
On January 14, a crowd of 100 - 200 activists and community members gathered outside Fall River Public Library to stop Nazis, right-wing extremists, and at least one local Republican official from disrupting the monthly Drag Story Time event put on by the Fall River Pride Committee. Options Magazine visited the action to report on the event and interviewed local activists, the treasurer of the Massachusetts Library Staff Association, the leaders of the action, and Drag Story Time’s reigning queen – Miss Gloria – herself. Options found union leaders, members of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), activists waving Antifa flags, and other Leftist organizations all in attendance that wet and cold Saturday morning. While Options was able to find members of the South Coast LGBTQ+ Network in attendance, the magazine was unable to find a representative from MassEquality or local affiliates of national LGBTQ advocacy organizations.
The defensive action was in response to events at the Fall River Public Library on December 10, where roughly 20 members of NSC-131 unfurled a banner that read “drag queens are pedophiles.” The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified NSC-131 as a Neo-Nazi organization with chapters throughout New England and is headquartered in Massachusetts. The Fall River Pride Committee released a statement posted on Facebook following the incident that NSC-131 was joined that day by the Proud Boys, a group accused of leading an attempted coup and attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 06, 2021.
Activists had started gathering for the January 14 action before 10 am – over an hour before Drag Story Time began to prepare for the potential arrival of NSC-131. This meant that when the drag queen that would be reading that day arrived, she was met with cheers and applause from over 100 people, and over a dozen supporters quickly swarmed her with hugs and well wishes. Options spoke with Miss Gloria as she arrived to see the crowd gathered to welcome her.
Miss Glorida is Sean Connell’s drag persona for Drag Story Time. Connell explained to Options that Drag Story Time had been happening at the Fall River Public Library since October 2021 and they had not had issues until last November. Connell told Options “I think word got out and now we’re really trying to show the community here how much love and
support we have and how much stronger love is than hate.”
Options asked Connell to react to seeing so many come out to stand up to extremists and Nazis. Connell told Options “I’m overwhelmed here at this level of support. I was born and raised here in Fall River, so to see something like this after what happened last month is powerful, and it's moving. I’m just kind of blown away by the love and the support here.”
Options also asked Connell to comment on the difference in size of the opposition that morning, since the magazine could only identify seven protestors, none wearing anything associating them with NSC-131. “I heard they [NSC-131] are doing other protests, I guess they are against Boston Children’s Hospital today.” Boston Children’s Hospital has received repeated bomb threats after it was targeted by Libs of TikTok. The Taunton Daily Gazette reported that the neo-Nazi group rushed into the Drag Story Time reading at Taunton’s public library that day, disrupting the event with small children inside.
As Miss Gloria said goodbye and greeted her many supporters, Options found Rhode Island resident Jenna Magnuski standing close by and asked her why she was there to support drag story time. Magnuski replied that “I think it's important for communities to come together and say no.” Options asked Magnuski what she thought of the fact Nazis had been part of the protests last time and if they were a physical danger, she asserted that “they don’t want to go out and actively hurt someone when they’re live streaming but they do want us to do something to them, that makes us look bad and them look like victims.”
Magnuski added that “as much as I want to punch a Nazi, I don’t want to play their games.” She also discussed the importance of trying to stay positive, especially while sticking up for children and families trying to enjoy Drag Story Time, saying “I’d rather be the peaceful loving person and I think people think that relentlessly positive people are really naive, but it takes a lot of work to stay positive.”
Boston DSA organized the defensive action to protect LGBTQ people that day. This was confirmed by Options learning of the event from the ProvDSA e-newsletter and Options spoke with Matt Amory, the treasurer of the Massachusetts Library Staff Association, the union that represents library workers in Massachusetts and is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). He told Options “I got the message out of the Democratic Socialists out of Boston, forwarded to me by my AFT Mass president.”
Options asked Amory if this situation was an isolated incident in Massachusetts. Amory described a situation in Ludlow, where community members made complaints about books in the local schools. One of the claims these Massachusetts residents had was that school libraries had a review process and Amory told Options they were claiming that it was an “obstructionist policy put in place by indoctrinators and groomers of children.” Amory went on to tell Options how that “Massachusetts librarian was so traumatized and so ostracized in the community that she actually had to leave the state.”
Asked if libraries are in serious danger, Amory told Options that there are very real threats to libraries and library workers. Yet, Amory also pointed out that “someone a few years ago said that the death of the book has been widely overreported, I think that the death of the library is widely overreported.”
Other groups there included the John Brown Gun Club, which declined to speak to media. The organization’s Rhode Island chapter’s website describes them as “a leftist working class community defense organization.” The group has been derided by the editorial board of The New York Times for defending Drag Story Times across the country, claiming that meeting armed Nazis with a defense force to protect Queer and Trans lives was “chilling.”
Options spoke with Boston DSA co-chair Alex Golanka about the defensive action and his thoughts on who did and didn’t show up. Golanka pointed out that while Boston DSA put the word out, many people there that day were not affiliated with any organization. He added that the turnout “blows me away.”
Asked why he thought socialists and leftists answered the call to stand up to Nazis, Golanka told Options “as socialists, we have that education to know what the logical endpoint is for Nazis being able to organize in the streets.” He also pointed out that there is a history of socialists standing up to fascists of all stripes. As to why others may not see such threat and not come to these actions, Golanka told Options “mainstream liberal press, they don’t really equip people with the kind of knowledge or the tools, I think, to want them to turn out to these things, so its left to us [socialists]” to get people out.
Options asked if Golanka had thoughts about the criticism the Times had for the John Brown Gun Club. Golanka stated that “the only people with room to criticize anything at all are the people out here today who participate in the work.” He also told Options that “people on the sidelines, like CNN, New York Times, they better be encouraging us or they should just be quiet.” Golanka continued stating that “unless you have done this work combatting the Nazis, then I don’t think that they have room to speak on it.”
Options reviewed media reports of the action. Options found local NBC 10 News published a segment and NECN posted an article based on NBC 10’s report. Neither outlet mentioned the leftist groups that Options found at the action defending Drag Story Time. NBC 10 did interview one of the seven anti-drag protestors, Christine Doherty, and both outlets quoted her stating “nobody's homophobic on our side at all.” Options recorded footage of one of the protestors screaming pedophile and groomer repeatedly at the crowd. Options also spoke to participants who accused the protesters from December 10 of hurling similar attacks as well as anti-Semitic obscenities.
Options also identified one of the other protesters against Drag Story Time as Melissa Terra, a former Somerset school committee member, and according to an August 2022 post by the Somerset Republican Town Committee on Facebook that named her as the group’s vice chair.