Neo-Nazis Protest at Fall River Library Drag Queen Story Time Amid Rise in Hate Crimes
FALL RIVER — A neo-Nazi protest outside the Fall River Public Library during a Drag Queen Story Time event on Saturday drew the ire of the city's mayor, amid a rise in hate crimes reported in Massachusetts.
In what Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan called "a tense situation" in a Monday Facebook post, at least a dozen members of the neo-Nazi group NSC-131 shouted slogans outside the city library in an apparent protest of Drag Queen Story Time.
"This weekend, a group of protestors, who are not from Fall River, traveled here to disturb an event," Coogan wrote, going on to say that he condemns "the messages that were being shared by the protestors outside of the library."
The Mayor's Message
It is unclear how the mayor knows they are not from Fall River.
But in his message, Coogan noted, "Fall River is a diverse city, and I believe we've always been better because of that."
He also thanked city police for "handling the situation" and "ensuing the safety of our residents," before apologizing to those who witnessed the disruption.
"To the families, hardworking library staff and event planners who had to deal with the protestors," Coogan wrote, "I am truly sorry."
Massachusetts Sees Increase in Hate Crimes
The incident comes amid a rise in hate crimes in Massachusetts documented by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the past year.
While hate crimes relating to gender identity in Massachusetts declined from 10 in 2020 to 6 in 2021, those relating to sexual orientation rose more than 30% over the same period.
And although the agency reported fewer hate crimes nationwide in 2021, it also noted that may be due to a change in the FBI's data collection system.
Submission of crime statistics "fell significantly" last year, the FBI noted — with several of the largest law enforcement agencies in the country not submitting data at all.
Hate crimes also made national headlines last month, after five people were killed in a mass shooting at a Colorado Springs LGBTQ nightclub on Nov. 19.
Drag Queen Story Time events usually take place at libraries, schools or other educational settings, and involve a drag queen performance artist reading children's books to kids to promote reading and diverse role models.
Coogan Denounces Nazi Protest
Coogan made his views on the neo-Nazi protest abundantly clear in his post.
"Countless men and women fought bravely in World War II and other conflicts AGAINST the very values those protestors spoke of," he wrote.
"While we do have to respect everyone’s right to protest and use free speech, I feel sick knowing that these individuals — who are not members of our community — came here only to cause chaos and disruption."
He added that no child "should have to witness the hostility, hate and vulgar language that protestors showed this Saturday."
"No matter what, we will continue to practice tolerance, respect and love for our neighbors here in Fall River," the message concluded.
Watch a video of the neo-Nazi protestors:
See the mayor's message about the incident: