By Marianne Mueller

Rockton streets were partially closed down on Monday evening, June 26 as residents and organized groups gathered at the Greater Township Center.

In question was whether or not Talcott Library should host a Q&A with a local drag Queen named Krystal Ball. The idea for the Q&A session originated from a suggestion from the Talcott Library Teen Advisory Board.

Hundreds filled the grounds with both supporters and those opposed to the event.

Jessica Green and Kelly Kulak served as leaders of a group of supporters.

On the grounds of the Greater Township Center they came together holding signs or colorful flags. Signs read, “Libraries are for everyone,” and some had on shirts with messages such as ‘Love is Love,’ on them.

Supporters chanted, “When trans lives are under attack, what do we do, we fight back,” and “Don’t like it, don’t come.”

On the protesting side, prayer and song was lifted. Drums and bagpipes were played. Signs were held that read, “Cancel Drag Event for Children” and “Keep Groomers away from Children.”

At times tempers flared, and confrontations heated up outside.

Inside the Greater Township Center the Talcott Library Board heard public comments, carefully listening to both sides. An hour was allowed in order for the board to listen to both supporters and opposition.

That evening was the first time that the library board came together to discuss whether or not the event should happen and to proceed with a vote.

Rockton resident Amy Mullen spoke on behalf of the event in strong support. “My view on the event is that I didn’t understand the opposition to a voluntary event.

“After reading all of the ugly comments on the Talcott Library page that I felt compelled to get involved,” Mullen said.

“My friend and I decided that we each would write statements for the board, and we half expected to be the only people there. Boy we were wrong.”

“The Rockton community has a large presence of LGBT people, larger than most residents may realize.”

“The High School has a very active GSA (Gay, Straight Alliance) Club. When I found out that the Teen Council for the library wanted the event I was on board.

Makeup tutorials on media platforms are extremely popular, especially those given by Drag Queens.

“This event would be geared toward teens, and nothing was going to be sexual about it. It then blew up and the disgusting accusations of the drag queen supporting being a groomer and a pedophile were endless. I felt terrible for the library staff.

“After the event was formed, I decided to go to it. We were told that the Rockford Family Initiative was coming, and they were serial protesters. They proved to be good at what they do,” said Mullen.

“They arrived early in the day to block the entrance, so supporters couldn’t enter the building. They held signs and said awful things to us. We were told not to engage with screaming, but that is hard for some to do. I only wanted to get into the building to speak.”

Highlights from Mullen’s speech include making it clear that the event is not being done by a ‘groomer.’ This is very derogatory, and disgusting.”

She shared statistics on groomers and spoke of others who suffer from thoughts of suicide.

Lifelong Rockton resident Laurie Miller spoke against the event. “In the 50 years I have been using the library, we have always been part of programs that offered good wholesome programs and books.

“I want to know everyone from the village, school board and library board who supports this because I won’t vote for you again. We the taxpayers have a say in what we want to see in our library.” Miller said.

Steve Ambrose, a 1994 graduate of Hononegah High School and a business owner said, “I have adult children in Rockton and have always taught them to respect others. Let us respect others by not funding the cost of this event.”

Supporter Jessica Green said, I am a 21-year-old activist from right here in Rockton. I am a young member of the LGBT community and am proud to have organized and brought this incredible group of supporters here with me this evening.

“I grew up coming to summer camp in this building, which has always been a safe space for me. I stand here tonight feeling unsafe, disappointed, and disgusted. I should not have to be here at this meeting fighting for Drag and LGBT individuals to live and to exist without fear and hatred. But yet I fight.

“Libraries are for everyone, and they are not for hatred to be directed. Libraries are supposed to be inclusive havens of learning and education. Our inclusive generation will win, if not today, someday. Our voices are becoming louder, and we’ll drown out your hate.”

During the discussion period Talcott Board President Gary Kovanda said, “When we asked for support to pass a referendum for expansion and renovation of the library it passed with 69 percent of votes. When I am asked how this happened I always reply. “There was great community support and trust in us. I am afraid that having this program has greatly damaged that support and trust. I hope that isn’t irreparable. I hope that in the future we can repair our damaged level of support with the community.”

Board member Loren Floto thanked everyone who came to speak at the meeting. Floto said that he received an email asking for a Letter of Resignation.  No recommendation was given to accept the letter.

“Megan has done a wonderful job throughout the day to day operation of the library.”

Vice President Bob Geddeis expressed his feeling that taxpayer money shouldn’t be used for this event. He threw support behind Library Director Megan Gove, especially noting her work during the expansion.

Floto added, “I also support these young people and the flowing of new ideas.”

Board member Aimee Floto warned that to censor the event that the board will be on a slippery slope.” “I don’t believe that programming is a board decision. It is the responsibility of our Director.”

A final vote of 4-2 was cast allowing the event to proceed.

Loren and Aimee Floto and Dan and Terrie Garlow voted yes. Library Board President, Gary Kovanda and Vice President, Bob Geddies voted no.

After the vote was taken supporters cheered and marched down Main Street.

When the event first appeared on the library’s Facebook page it was geared toward children in grades 6-12th grade. This met with great opposition due to the age of participants the event was geared toward.

An announcement was made on July 3 by Talcott Library that the event would now be held virtually on July 14 at 3 p.m. Reasons for the change stemmed from concerns over safety issues for the public and the guest speaker.

Rockford Family Initiative has announced on their Facebook page plans to “Prayerfully protest” at the library on July 14 at 3 p.m to stand up against this madness.”

Rockton Pride (formerly known as Kings and Queens at Heart) will be hosting a community “Rockton Pride” party from 4 to 6 p.m. on the day of the event rather than meeting in front of the library.

A location is yet to be announced and will be posted on the group’s Facebook page. Rockton Pride raised $1,000 in a matter of days to cover the cost of the drag queen event at the library. This was done to release concerns about taxpayer money being spent.

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