SPOKANE, Wash. - This weekend's Drag Queen Story Hour drew hundreds of people to the South Hill Library to support and protest the idea of drag queens reading to kids. Spokane Police say for the most part, they were able to keep things under control -- until a local pastor stepped in to preach.
That man, Afshin Yaghtin, is a pastor at New Covenant Baptist Church.
"It's an abomination to God for a man to dress up as a woman or a woman to dress up as a man and that might seem harsh to some people, but that's what our faith teaches," he said. "I just felt like, you know, I should be able to go inside. It's a public space, and exercise my first amendment rights. My free speech, my freedom of religion and the police would not let me do that."
John O'Brien with Spokane Police says the department wasn't trying to impede on anyone's right to free speech. He told KXLY when it comes to protests like Saturday's, the department makes it a point to separate each side to their own safe space. In this case, protesters and supporters were divided to each side of the street. O'Brien said Yaghtin was repeatedly asked to join the protesters across the street from the library, but he refused.
"In a case like this where people can have such strong opinions for or against, it's important to have two separate safe spaces so that a person's emotions doesn't get the better of them and they act without thinking and they create a worse incident," he said. "The gentleman that was arrested was given numerous requests to go to the other side and he refused, to the point where he made a comment, 'well, you're gonna have to arrest me.'"
Yaghtin was arrested for obstructing an officer. He was put in jail, but posted bail and spoke with KXLY on Monday.
Like many others who protested Saturday, Yaghtin believes drag has no place at the public library, saying it's exaggerated and sexualized -- even comparing drag to pedophilia.
"It's a psychological attack on children's minds," he said.
Event organizer Andrea Tate said the comparison to pedophilia is "a visive homophobic rhetoric that they want to use in order to drive their own religious agenda."
She adds, just as Yaghtin has the right to publicly protest, drag queens have the right to publicly perform.
"There is absolutely nothing in the constitution of the United States or in the Washington constitution that says that I as a performer cannot be in a public space."
Despite the pushback, Tate believes the kids at the center of the debate were able to tune out the noise on Saturday.
"Regardless of where these kids were at, we wanted to make sure it was about them, that they were having a really good time and I definitely think we achieved that," she said. "There was no harm done to any of those children in that room. There were smiles, there were laughter."
Yaghtin told KXLY he's looking into bringing a Bible Story Hour to the Spokane Public Library, while Tate told KXLY the next Drag Queen Story Hour is set for this Saturday at 2 p.m. at the downtown library.
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