A man with an armed rifle interrupted the event at the library in Sparks, where children had assembled to enjoy reading.
Before the panic, local drag queen Miss Ginger Devine read to children at the Washoe County Library System's Sparks location while Proud Boys members protested.
Wearing the militia's colors of yellow and black, the group carried placards that read, "Stop sexualizing children! Shame on you for trading your kids just to look 'woke.' Woke is broke."
After 11:30 a.m., the Sparks Police Department was made aware of a protest outside the library where someone claimed to have been assaulted, according to a statement to The Advocate. The alleged victim declined to file charges, so the police did not pursue the matter further, the statement said.
Less than two hours later, police received a call about an armed person at the same location. "Sparks Police arrived on scene and contacted the reporting person," a spokesperson for the department wrote. "The reporting person stated the subject with the gun had left prior to officers' arrival."
Officers determined the gun owner held the weapon lawfully and did not threaten anyone. Nevada does not prohibit open carry, so officers took no action, the statement said.
In 2019, before the ongoing pandemic, over 800 families attended Washoe County libraries' storytelling experience. However, fewer than 60 families participated this year.
It was nevertheless a success, according to a tweet from the library system.
"#DragQueenStoryTime was a success," the library tweeted. "Sparks families came out today to meet Miss Ginger and join in the fun. Special thanks to Austin from @SenCortezMasto's@SenCortezMasto's office for presenting Ginger with a very special proclamation! What an honor on this fabulous day!
Nevada U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto's spokesperson Lauren Wodarski responded to the incident.
"Senator Cortez Masto stands with the LGBTQ community and strongly condemns armed vigilantes threatening parents and children at a local library," she wrote to The Advocate.
Drag queen story hour events across the country have increasingly seen the Proud Boys appear as part of a far-right intimidation campaign. In addition, several members of the group and other leaders have been indicted on charges of seditious conspiracy since the January 6, 2021, riots at the U.S. Capitol building.
An employee at the Sparks library said there have been protests in the community before.
"In 2019, we had a lone protester and possibly 50 to 60 counterprotesters in support of the event," a staff member told local NBC station KRNV.
To avoid retaliation from the Proud Boys, a Sparks librarian spoke anonymously to the station.
"We had some people who were visibly shaken and sobbing," the librarian said. "We brought everybody in the building and got them out of vision out of sight."
She said it would have been helpful if officers had done more to ensure families felt safe coming in and out of the event.
"When you have a situation where it's potentially volatile and weapon appears — simply a presence, indicating that there are police nearby, would have been reassuring to the families," she said.
Sparks Police spokesperson Sgt. Nicholas Chambers explained why officers did not act against a man who menaced a group of children with a gun.
"Just as all citizens have the constitutional right to peacefully demonstrate within the confines of the law, so does a person have the right to open carry in the State of Nevada," he wrote.
He added, "The Sparks Police Department honors all citizens' constitutional rights within the confines of the law."
It is legal in Nevada to carry firearms on public property, including libraries. Guns are prohibited only in public schools, airports, or child care centers.
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