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While WorldPride Rolls, 2 LGBTQ Events Are Canceled Because Of Safety Concerns

Lil Miss Hot Mess reads to children during a Drag Queen Story Hour in Brooklyn, N.Y. The event is held in libraries across the country, including, in the past, at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
Mary Altaffer
Lil Miss Hot Mess reads to children during a Drag Queen Story Hour in Brooklyn, N.Y. The event is held in libraries across the country, including, in the past, at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

As thousands gathered in New York City for the , some other events across the country were unable to proceed because of threats and safety concerns.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and Jacksonville Public Library in Florida both canceled events that celebrate LGBTQ pride scheduled for this weekend.

In the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Library saw a threat posted on Reddit and decided to cancel its Drag Queen Story Hour, an event the library has hosted a number of times in the past with no problem.

The Jacksonville Public Library planned to host a "Storybook Pride Prom" last Friday and provide a safe space for LGBTQ teenagers. The sold-out event was canceled following protests and threats, according to the library.

Both libraries apologized for the cancellations and ensured they would create programs in the future that promote diversity.

"Due to unforeseen circumstances beyond our control, Drag Queen Story Hour will not be presented this Saturday," reads a statement from the Carnegie Library's website. "CLP is proud to join other libraries around the country to offer programming to families that explores diversity and encourages empathy, kindness and understanding. We look forward to resuming story hour next season."

Both events were protested by religious groups in the days leading up to the last weekend of Pride Month.

The Jacksonville library received criticism both for hosting the event and for canceling it.

Residents angry that the prom was canceled protested outside a branch of Jacksonville library and called for its director's resignation, according to News4Jax.

Responding to criticism, the library followed up its initial statement with a second, assuring patrons that it was not bowing to political pressure, instead making a tough choice to protect the safety of the 14-to-18-year-old teenagers who were planning to attend.

"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," the statement said.

Return to Order, an anti-LGBT organization, amassed over 20,000 signatures on an online petition to cancel Carnegie's Drag Queen Story Hour. The petition reads, "These events are confusing to children, encouraging them to contradict reality and to accept cross-dressing and "gender fluidity" as normal."

Similarly to the Jacksonville Public Library, a representative of the Carnegie Library said that political pressure was not a factor in canceling the Drag Queen Story Hour, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Maintaining safety and security at events intended for members of the LGBTQ community remains a challenge across the country.

NPR's Neda Ulaby, reporting from WorldPride, told Weekend Edition about the safety precautions the massive NYC event has in place.

"They're putting thousands of officers, both uniformed and plainclothes, on the street," Ulaby said. "There are bomb-sniffing dogs. There are heavy weapons teams. There's surveillance for unauthorized drones."

Josh Axelrod is NPR's Digital Content intern.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.