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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

Downtown protest breaks out for and against local drag queen

Angel D’mon comes out of The Crafters Library after “Story Time with Miss Angel” to thank her supporters during the protests on Feb. 11 in Santa Barbara, Calif.

It was a tale of two sidewalks.

The morning sun still shone low over Figueroa Street as 11 a.m. neared on Saturday, allowing the buildings to cast long shadows. The division was clear: in the sunlight, La Arcada’s Hook & Press was a typically bubbling, animated locale, with a line stretching out the door. In the shade, two people held signs. They were silent.

In the previous week, a newsletter had been sent out and subsequently leaked, organizing a protest against a storytime hosted by Miss Angel, also known as Angel D’mon, a local drag queen, at The Crafter’s Library. By the storytime’s beginning, a counter-protest had gathered. 

The counter-protestors blocked the large storefront windows to Crafter’s Library with signs and a large, hand-painted banner. Andrew Manos, a local musician, led the crowd through an assortment of songs, starting with the Black Eyed Peas’ “Where is the Love.”

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One attendee, Barbara Bartolome, handed out graphics reading “choose kindness,” printed in a rainbow, cursive font.

“We have a gay daughter ourselves,” she said. Then, referring to the protestors, “Who cares?”

She began a contagious chant.

“Choose kindness, choose love, choose acceptance,” the crowd shouted, staccato words rising above the buzz of their own conversations and the cafe-goers excitedly gossiping while they craned their necks behind them.

On the other sidewalk, a very different scene took place.

In the shade, the air was much colder. There was no running, singing or chanting here. The dozen-or-so protestors instead shivered even as they held their signs. 

“Stop mocking women,” one read.

Without the buzz of conversations from the cafe and cheerful guitar music to dampen them, only the loud chants of the counter protestors could be heard. Occasionally, one voice would yell out, angry, audible across the street.

Goleta resident Caroline Abate expressed disappointment in the counter protestors. 

“People want to get angry right away,” she said, “and hostile.” 

“It just makes me want to cry,” said Patty Semenza, frustrated by the protest across the street as she stood in the sun. “[Angel] is an amazing human being… like as a human being; she’s not just a drag queen.”

Linda Foster, who participated in protesting against the drag queens, stood in front of a car to face the Crafter’s Library and explained her reasoning.

“This is just another gateway [in] our society to what’s not normal and not healthy for our children,” she said.

Foster felt as if her values were being misinterpreted by counter protestors, and shared that she had acted as a witness in her own friends’ gay marriage.

“I’m not against gays,” she said, “or gay marriage.”

On that matter, Abate held a different opinion.

“The reality is men and women,” she said. “They’re promoting an agenda that will ultimately harm them.”

Karen Rice, a pastor for local church Way Collective, directed a counter-protest crowd in chants. Under her guidance, “Stop mocking Christians” was exchanged for the more upbeat “We love Angel”. On her back, she wore a rainbow flag, emblazoned with the words “Gender creativity saves lives.” She ran in front of both groups of protestors, letting her flag flutter behind her like a superhero’s cape as she was cheered by onlookers.

As the story hour came to a close, the protestors on both sides prepared to disperse.

In the shade, a quiet prayer circle was held. Those who had come to show their disapproval for the event quietly picked up and walked away.

In the sun, Miss Angel, who had been reading to guests at The Crafter’s Library, seemingly undisturbed by the conflict occurring just outside, came out to thank her supporters. Those supporters diffused back into the crowds of morning shoppers and brunch-goers, bringing their own signs and banners with them.

As they left, they remained on their own sides of the street.

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