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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Second childrens’ book reading at downtown Spokane library by drag queens draws similar protest numbers

Children and parents listen during Drag Queen Story Hour at the downtown Spokane Public Library on Saturday, June 22, 2019. The event drew similar crowds as an event held the week before at the South Hill branch, but there were no arrests Saturday. (Will Campbell / The Spokesman-Review)

The Downtown Spokane Public Library held a second Drag Queen Story Hour on Saturday, a controversial event that had people dressed in drag read books to children in during Gay Pride Month.

Saturday afternoon’s reading drew about the same crowds as last week’s event at the South Hill Spokane Public Library.

Outside the library, about 150 protesters gathered across West Main Avenue and also across North Lincoln Street hours before the reading. Some used megaphones and signs to demonstrate their concern about the drag queens and the library supporting the reading hour.

The canyon effect of the buildings caused the megaphones to sound much louder, said Caris O’Malley, deputy director of Spokane Public Libraries.

About 300 counterprotesters stood on the sidewalk bordering the downtown library and wore rainbow clothing and blew bubbles. Some held up white sheets to block childrens’ view of the protesters.

Both groups brought instruments to play and drown out their opponents’ music and speech.

The reading started at 2 p.m., when about 275 people, including parents and children, filed into a room at the downtown library. Staff asked families with at least two parents present to have one leave so more children could get into the room.

The first book, read by drag queen Tirrany Hex, was titled “Not All Princesses Wear Pink.”

Afshin Yaghtin, who was arrested at least week’s reading hour, arrived at Saturday’s event with a press badge for his publication, SAVED Magazine, and was allowed by library staff to observe and record the story hour.

“It’s not worth it to decide what’s a valid news agency,” said Jason Johnson, public engagement manager for the downtown Spokane Public Library.

Yaghtin said SAVED was founded about six months ago as a way to combat abortion and promote Christianity in Spokane. It was not founded in response to Drag Queen Story Hour, he said.

Yaghtin and a group of four other SAVED employees quietly recorded in the back of the room during the reading with no issues. They left before the story hour concluded.

Yaghtin said his arraignment at the Spokane County Courthouse is on Wednesday, and he’s also looking to file a counterlawsuit.

Johnson said the library has no current plans to host another drag queen reading event, but the library would likely accommodate if it got another proposal.

“It’s a valuable program, and we’ll continue to do it,” he said.

Police had less of a visible presence on Saturday compared to last week’s reading, said Sgt. Terry Preuninger, spokesman for the Spokane Police Department. Preuninger said police did not arrest anyone during Saturday’s reading or the protests before and after.

The reading ended at about 3 p.m., and protesters and counterprotesters lingered for a while after.

Outside the library before the reading, Jen Goe stood in line with her daughter Aubrey Goe. The two didn’t make it to last week’s event, but decided to come on Saturday because “we live to love everybody,” Jen Goe said.

“I’m teaching (my daughter) how to be a good citizen to this city,” she said. “Love is love.”