Conservative group's story hour for kids at Cedar Park Library offers glimpse of nationwide event
An almost equal number of participants and protesters showed up for a children's story hour at the Cedar Park Public Library on Saturday.
The "See You at the Library" event, hosted by members of the Williamson County chapter of Citizens Defending Freedom, featured prayer, singing and a book reading. It was a precursor to a national event this weekend.
The event is sponsored by activist and actor Kirk Cameron and BRAVE Books, a conservative children's book publisher based in Houston.
"I commend you guys for showing up," Dorian Chavez, one of the organizers, told event-goers. "There's people out there that don't like the idea of us reading books that show that we love God, and that we love one another."
Chavez was referring to a group of demonstrators outside the community room where the event took place. They had set up a small table with Pride flags and rainbow bracelets. "Please take a few and share," a sign with a smiley face read.
Many of the demonstrators had waved the Pride flags as people arrived to the library. Others roamed around wearing Pride T-shirts and carrying "banned books."
"We wanna show that Cedar Park is not full of hate," said Neitha Engert, who leads the local chapter of Mother's Against Greg Abbott. "We heard about a group that was coming that wants to ban books — that wants to have books taken out of the library, and we just wanted to come and have a silent protest."
The children's story hour featured guest readers, including Leander ISD Trustee Paul Gauthier.
"I'm here to just support friends that wanted to read wholesome books to kids," he said.
Cheryl Larson, a school librarian for 30 years, said she came to learn more about the organization behind the story hour and the books being read.
Larson said shortly after she entered the community room she was asked to leave; the organizers didn't want the children to see the Pride flags she was carrying.
"I held up the purse with the flags still in it to let everybody know that I was being thrown out of the meeting because I wouldn't shove those flags down farther," she said.
Larson said she was disappointed.
"They’re being exclusive — and I don’t mean that in a good way like the country club — rather than inclusive of all peoples," she said. "And they may say they are, but they’re not. Or else they would not have asked me to leave the meeting."
When he found out Larson was asked to leave, Gauthier said he sees that "too often."
"You know, someone wears a cross or a Jesus thing — 'Well, you need to get them out of Pride events cause they're gonna cause a ruckus,'" he said, "or they're wearing a Pride flag and they're gonna cause a ruckus.'"
Larson said she plans to attend Friday's event at the Florence Pubic Library, as well as events Saturday at public libraries in Leander, Hutto, Round Rock, Jarrell and Taylor. Cameron is expected to attend the event in Taylor.
"This is the first one I've been to, and I'm not going to miss any more of them," Larson said. "It's my goal now to see how many times I can get thrown out, I guess."