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Hundreds show up to support NAC drag story time as 30 protest against event

Meanwhile, inside the NAC, about 50 adults, toddlers and babies listened to stories

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About 200 people showed up outside the NAC Wednesday to support a drag story time performance going on inside and oppose the much smaller crowd protesting the event.

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Police kept a close watch on the opposing sides separated by colourful banners held by supporters to shield the families with children trooping into the story time event from the eyes of protesters.

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Supporters, some holding rainbow flags and adorned with heart necklaces, danced to music piped from a speaker.

There were three incidents witnessed by this newspaper of scuffling and yelling that ended in men being handcuffed by police and led away.

In one case a man being handcuffed was yelling Bible verses about the abomination of a woman wearing a man’s garment.

In another incident, after a scuffle in the crowd a young man in a red ball cap reading “Save Canada” was handcuffed and put into a police cruiser.

Save Canada, which promoted Wednesday’s anti-drag protest, was also one of the groups that organized a protest on Parliament Hill last month to celebrate the anniversary of the truck convoy protest that paralyzed downtown Ottawa.

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In the third instance, the Citizen didn’t witness what precipitated the arrest, but another man was handcuffed and led away.

Meanwhile, inside the NAC, about 50 adults, toddlers and babies listened to stories read by drag performers China Doll and Cyril Cinder and enjoyed kids songs from a performer called Monkey Rock Music.

The event was presented by Capital Pride and the Ottawa Public Library, which had a book table set up.

Drag story times have become a target for protesters in both the United States and more recently in the Ottawa area.

Ottawa community groups organized the counter-demonstration Wednesday to show their support for the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

The Community Solidarity Ottawa group had asked supporters to come out to stand up to “homophobic bullies” and “counter the far right and drown out their hate with love.”

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There were about 30 people on the protester side. Several people interviewed said they did not think children should see drag because the performers are “sexual.”

Story time performer Cyril Cinder wore multi-coloured pants and top and had cartoonish makeup and orange hair. Fellow performer China Doll was dressed in a long sweater-coat decorated with graphics of dogs and snowflakes, and sported huge sunglasses.


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Protester Susan Lim said she did not believe men should dress up in women’s clothing.

“I want boys to be boys and girls to be girls.”

Performer Cinder, in an interview, said she hoped the show helped promote inclusivity while dispelling misinformation about all-ages drag story times.

Drag is “an art form that has existed for centuries,” said Cinder. “Just like theatre, just like art of all kinds, like music. Not all of it is appropriate for all ages….we hope these kids grow up to be a more encouraging, supportive generation.

“We don’t want straight kids to be queer. We don’t have the ability to make that happen! We just want queer kids to be safe.”

Supporters said drag story times help kids learn to accept themselves and others.

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Paulina Ramphos, who was wearing a rainbow mask, said the performances help kids learn that it’s OK to be their authentic selves.

Besides, what’s the difference between a drag performer telling fairy tales and a person dressed as a fairy princess entertaining kids at a birthday party? said Ramphos.

Carly Hawke, who attended the story time with her three-month-old son in a Snugli, said she loved the performance.

“These are fun, interactive, inclusive.

“It’s always uplifting to see all the support from the queer community,” said Hawke.

“At the end of the day I feel safe because I’m surrounded by my community.”

Police formed a line outside the doors of NAC after the performance inside ended, creating a corridor for families to leave without being hassled by protesters.

“Let them (protesters) scream into the void if they want to,” Cinder told cheering supporters outside the NAC.

“This is a win for our community. We showed them that our love is stronger and will always be stronger than hate.”

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