Outside a public library in Chula Vista, California — which was hosting a pair of drag queens reading books to children and parents — two groups with polar-opposite beliefs about Tuesday's event squared off, yelling and chanting at each other.
One group was opposed to the controversial Drag Queen Story Time while a second group supported the event, which has been gaining widespread popularity around the country among those who see it as a way to teach tolerance and inclusiveness to children.
But supporters of the Drag Queen Story Time got some prominent assistance — from Mayor Mary Salas and Councilman Steve Padilla, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. And they weren't there to blend in with the counterprotesters.
'They want us to get angry'
As Drag Queen Story Time supporters gathered in a park before the event, Padilla urged the group to remain focused on their message of love, the paper reported.
"They want us to get angry," Padilla told the group, according to the Union-Tribune. "They want us to get angry so they can have a spectacle …
"We are going to do something much more powerful," he added as the supporters applauded, the paper said.
Salas also spoke to supporters, telling them not to lose hope and to keep trying to peacefully explain the purpose of the Drag Queen Story Time, the paper added.
More from the Union-Tribune:
Salas said she viewed the story time as a way to teach children that no matter what they may face or however different they may feel — "whether they have big ears or walk with a limp" — they are accepted.
Salas said she tried to talk to as many protesters against the event as she could.
"They're saying they're praying for us?" Salas said of the protesters, the paper noted. "Well, I'm praying for them, too — that they come to some level of understanding."
But Hector Gastelum, who serves on the Otay Water District board, criticized Salas and Padilla for promoting the event and told the Union-Tribune they acted irresponsibly for doing so.
"This material is just not age-appropriate for kids," he added to the paper.
Lots of tension
There had been a great deal of opposition to the Drag Queen Story Time before the event — and among the detractors were members of South Bay Pentecostal Church, who saw the outside walls of their sanctuary vandalized with satanic symbols and vulgar phrases Sunday.
Executive Pastor Amado Huizar told KNSD-TV he believes his church was targeted for members' opposition: "We've stood up the last several weeks to share our concern regarding the upcoming Drag Queen Story Hour. We feel that maybe, perhaps, those two are connected."
But the Union-Tribune said the opposition led to a wave of support, and hundreds showed up to do just that, many of whom chanted to protesters, "No hate, no fear — everyone is welcome here!"
Other counterprotesters also chanted, "Hey hey, ho ho, homophobes have got to go!"
However, some protesters told the paper they didn't believe the Drag Queen Story Time was something kids should witness.
Different vibe inside
But Gabriela Prendimano — who attended the Drag Queen Story Time with her daughter — told the paper, "I'm not going to let her grow up thinking that it's OK to be hateful like these people outside."
Courtney Ware went to the event with her toddler son and added to the Union-Tribune that it "was everything that the library promised it would be and nothing that the haters said it would be."
She also told the paper, "The whole room was filled with positive energy. I almost felt like crying."
More from the paper:
Inside the library, parents and children filled an auditorium during two sessions of a lively story time with Raquelita and Barbie Q, the two drag queens who read picture books, danced and sang to the audience.
Many of the parents and children sported shiny gold crowns, feather boas and rainbow, heart-shaped stickers.
The crowd laughed and snapped their fingers as the duo on stage read two books: "Julián is a Mermaid" — a tale about a boy who makes his own mermaid costume at home, inspired by three women he sees on a subway — and "It's Okay to Be Different," which delivers a message of acceptance, tolerance and confidence.