Hundreds of protesters have gathered outside a pub in south London in support of a drag queen storytelling event for children after opposition group Turning Point UK announced plans to try and prevent it from taking place.
The event in The Honor Oak pub in Lewisham has drawn dozens of pro LGBT+ rights activists and local people out in support, after police descended on the venue amid fears of another right-wing rally such as that seen outside Tate Britain earlier this month.
The reading session was hosted by drag queen That Girl, who has disputed claims by Turing Point UK that the storytelling session is not suitable for children.
They told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: ‘We are fostering a love of stories and I’m just a clown in a pretty dress facilitating that. It’s entirely age appropriate. To suggest otherwise is misinformation.’
Dozens of police have been pictured at the scene in anticipation of possible clashes between Turning Point UK and those supportive of LGBT+ rights – but it at first appeared no right-wing activists had shown up.
Hundreds of protesters turned out to the Honor Oak pub by Saturday lunchtime, almost all of them in support of drag queen That Girl
One person appeared to have been detained by police during the protest and counter-protest
Counter-protesters wearing flags and carrying signs lined the streets with no right-wing protesters in sight
It follows a large protest that turned ugly at the Tate Britain earlier this month after drag queen Aida H Dee, the face of Drag Queen Story Hour UK, was hired to read to children at the gallery.
Right-wing organisation Turning Point UK posted on social media on Friday announcing its plans to protest today’s event in an attempt to stop it taking place.
According to eyewitnesses at the scene, around 30 protesters did eventually arrive at the pub on Saturday, only to be completely outnumbered by several hundred counter-protesters.
Both sides could be heard chanting slogans at one another while police prevented the two sides from mixing.
Anti-drag queen protesters were drowned out by booing from counter-protesters and police sirens.
The Metropolitan Police told MailOnline two arrests have been made: ‘Officers are aware of a protest taking place outside a venue in Saint German’s Road, Lewisham today, 25 February 2023.
‘Officers are in attendance and continue to engage with the group throughout, in order to facilitate, what is a largely a peaceful protest.
‘Two people have been arrested in connection with the protest.’
Ahead of the event the Honor Oak pub released a statement on Facebook stressing the event was suitable for children.
The post read: ‘It has come to our attention that there may be some misunderstanding about the event, so we wanted to reassure you all that our popular Magical Storytelling event will be age appropriate and it isn’t anything different to what families will see and experience together in a theatre.’
Drag queen That Girl also issued a statement on social media: ‘We have been made aware of plans to protest our event and are grateful to those who have offered to attend in solidarity with us.
‘If you feel safe and able to join us, please come along, noting that our event will be a display of queer joy and solidarity.
‘We ask you do not engage with any protesters – they are not looking for a conversation and we will not dignify their bigotry with a response.
‘Should you need them, there will be security on site. Thank you for your support and we look forward to seeing you.’
Photos from the scene appeared to show at least one person being detained by police.
The Metropolitan Police have been contacted for comment.
A small group of anti-drag protesters were pictured at the scene, but found themselves vastly outnumbered
Police told MailOnline two arrests had been made during the protests
There was a heavy police presence on scene after Turning Point UK announced plans to protest the event
The storytelling session is being led by drag queen That Girl and was scheduled to begin at 11am
But by the start time of 11am, only people in favour of the storytelling hour appeared to have shown up to the location
Many of the activists at the pub held signs reading ‘Don’t let the far right divide us’
Dozens of counter-protesters turned out to the Lewisham venue after hearing protesters planned to block the storytelling hour from going ahead
Police pictured arriving at the scene on Saturday morning in south east London
The drag storytelling hour is just the latest of a series of events in the UK to attract protests.
Far-right organisations such as Patriotic Alternative have protested at sites across the UK in recent months in a bid to stop drag queens from reading stories to children.
Two weeks ago, far-right protesters clashed with largely peaceful LGBT+ rights supporters outside the Tate Britain over a separate storytelling event.
One person was arrested at the protest on suspicion of making a racially aggravated comment towards a police officer outside the central London art gallery.
Around 30 far-right protesters clashed with similar numbers of counter-protesters who appeared in support of the story-telling.
After the event, Aida H Dee tweeted: ‘I’m in tears. I write this crying in a tube station. I may not be proud of my government, but I’m goddam proud of my community today!! THANK YOU!
‘I performed my OWN published books AND IT WAS FABULOUS!!!’
A spokesperson for the Tate said: ‘Police attended a disturbance outside Tate Britain this morning. The gallery has remained open to visitors throughout the day and all events went ahead as planned.’
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