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Protesters clash outside drag queen storytime in Coquitlam, B.C.


Mounties were called in to keep the peace between a small group of protesters and a large group of counter-protesters outside a public library in Coquitlam Saturday.

The source of the fuss? Drag queen Conni Smudge, who was reading to children inside.

Outside, a demonstrator with a megaphone was met with boos and quickly drowned out by Smudge's supporters.

Dozens of Mounties tried to keep the peace between the determined but clearly outnumbered protesters and the group there to confront them. Shoving erupted between the two groups at least once.

Warning: the video in the embedded tweet contains profanity.

Smudge began hosting drag storytimes a decade ago, and says the hate she's faced for doing it has only gotten worse in that time.

Well aware that protesters would show up at Saturday's reading, the performer appealed for support from allies and got it.

"You can choose whatever colour of the rainbow you want to be and I will support you," said Astrid Lalonde, one of the large crowd of counter-protesters who showed up at the event.

Yet among the demonstrators was a gay man who didn't want to share his name with CTV News.

He explained his reason for attending the protest, describing drag queen storytime as a gateway to the sexualization of children.

"It’s a burlesque thing," he said. "So dancing will turn into dress-up and dress-up will turn into, perhaps, stripping."

It's an argument that has brought protesters to drag storytimes across B.C. and across North America in recent years, and it's one Smudge is quick to push back against.

"Sexualizing children is not what I am into at all," said Smudge. "If you think about it, I was groomed to be heterosexual. How did that work out?"

She said people who protest drag storytime generally haven't ever been to one, but have formed their opinions about her and about the concept online.

Seeing drag storytime in person, it's harder to be mad about it, Smudge asserted.

"It's hard to hate up close," she said.

Outside the reading, protesters and counter-protesters argued and sometimes shoved each other. (CTV)

Among the counter-protesters supporting Smudge was Bonita Zarrillo, the NDP Member of Parliament for Port Moody-Coquitlam.

She said it's important to oppose the protesters' message, which she described as spreading hate.

"This is happening across Canada right now, this idea that you can spread hate," she said. "It needs to stop."

After storytime, Smudge exited the library to join the largely adoring crowd, thanking them for coming as they escorted her away.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's St. John Alexander Top Stories

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