Another public library in the United States has been forced to cancel an LGBTI event following harassing and threatening phone calls and emails.
Willowbranch Library in Jacksonville, Florida, canceled its Storybook Pride Prom on Monday (24 June). Organizers scheduled the event for Friday (28 June) night.
More than 100 teenagers signed up to attend the event. They planned on dressing up as their favorite literary characters or in drag for a night of music, dancing, and socializing.
Local drag queen Beatrice Palmer also had plans to make an appearance.
After receiving hundreds of phone calls and emails, both in support and protesting the event, the library made the decision to cancel the prom night.
Chris Boivin, the library’s assistant director of community relations and marketing, said the decision came to down to concern over a lack of ‘safety and security for everybody involved’.
‘Open to all,’ says library
The Jacksonville Public Library Facebook page made a post announcing the cancellation.
‘The co-opting of the event by others who wish to use it for their own purposes has created a situation in which the library is not confident that it will be 100% prepared to provide a safe, secure environment for customers, staff, volunteers, contractors, protestors and active supporters, and most of all for the teens themselves,’ the post explained.
After careful and extensive deliberation, the library has decided to cancel the Storybook Pride Prom scheduled for…
The post continued, thanking people for appreciating ‘the library’s intention to engage with teens in a new way, in a demonstration of the library as a place for learning and fun—a place where friends come together for conversation and something as simple as a dance without the labels and judgement that are too often a part of everyday life’.
It also described the association with politics and activism as ‘unfortunate’.
The post concluded: ‘Jacksonville Public Library remains open to all and will continue to create programs and provide materials on all topics to enable everyone to grow and learn—children, teens and adults.’
A common occurrence
Some were glad to see the event canceled after they actively campaigned against it.
Both Raymond Johnson, founder of Biblical Concepts Ministries in Jacksonville, and Elizabeth Johnston, a blogger known as ‘The Activist Mommy’, encouraged their followers to call the library and complain.
Johnston told her followers in a Facebook post to ‘express your disgust that this perversion is taking place in a taxpayer funded library’.
Palmer is working on rescheduling the event elsewhere.
‘My goal is to make sure that the gay and trans kids have somebody looking out for them and somebody telling them that they’re not inappropriate for existing, and making sure that the straight kids that go know how to make the world better for them as well,’ she told Jacksonville.com.
GSN reached out to the Jacksonville Public Library system and Equality Florida for comment.
Update: 26 June
Boivin responded to GSN and provided the following statement:
We understand the frustration of many about the recent cancellation of our Pride Prom planned for this Friday. We are disappointed that we cannot move forward with the event as planned and are now discussing alternatives in keeping with our original spirit and intent.
The Jacksonville Public Library promotes inclusivity and acceptance of all people, regardless of sexual orientation. Indeed, that was the goal of the Pride Prom as well as our other Pride Month programs. We stand by our decision to create the event, just as we stand by our decision to cancel it when we felt the teens’ safety could not be guaranteed.
We uphold the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, which affirms that ‘equity, diversity, and inclusion are central to the promotion and practice of intellectual freedom.’
We also support civil discourse and free speech. Unfortunately, the discourse from some in the community did not remain civil and reportedly included threats of physical violence. We had to make a very tough call.
Among the goals of the Pride Prom was to provide a safe, inclusive and positive environment where teens could feel free to be themselves. After hearing about threats aimed at attendees, we no longer felt that we could achieve those goals.
To be clear: Our cancellation of the Pride Prom does not mean that we agree with — or are bowing to pressure from — those who protested the event. We are not a political, religious or activist organization. We are, however, an organization dedicated to diversity, inclusivity and the safety of all who use our space.