Free Library braces for possible right-wing protest of Pride events

The Philadelphia City Institute Library.
The Philadelphia City Institute Library. (Photo by Jason Villemez)

The right-wing activist group Moms for Liberty, which has been successful at getting conservative people onto school boards, banning books with LGBT content from both school and public libraries, and forcing schools and libraries to eliminate LGBT and other diversity programs, will be targeting the Free Library of Philadelphia when they bring their second annual national summit to the city in June.

Moms for Liberty (M4L) will be holding its “Joyous Warriors Summit” from June 29 to July 3 at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown. Among the speakers will be right wing talk show host Dennis Prager, who has purported anti-gay AIDS stigma, North Carolina Lt. Gov Mark Robinson, who has called gay and transgender people “filth.” After the summit concludes, it has been learned that some M4L members are planning on staying in town to conduct unspecified actions at several branches of the Free Library to protest its Pride programming.

According to information posted on social media, M4L plans to target at least three branches of the Free Library: Philadelphia City Institute (on Rittenhouse Square), Independence Library (near Washington Square) and two departments of the main library on the Parkway (the Children’s Dept. and the Field Teen Center). All of those branches will be doing LGBTQ-related events while M4L is in town, including story time, music events, and parties.

The Free Library’s new director of communications, Trenton Smiley, was able to confirm to PGN that members of their staff had received information regarding possible M4L actions, though he was unable to confirm which branches would be the likely targets. Smiley assured PGN that the Free Library’s administration is taking the possibility of M4L actions seriously and are taking appropriate precautions.

“We’re sending out information to our branches,” said Smiley. “We are making sure that our staff know the appropriate responses in order to de-escalate any situation that may arise.”

Smiley admitted that staffers are permitted to call the police, but only if the protesters enter the branch premises and disrupt the event, or attempt to prevent patrons from entering.

“Our goal is to ensure that all who want to have free access to the Library and its programs,” said Smiley.

Many of the Free Library’s 54 branches, including the three likely target branches, have scheduled a variety of Pride-specific events during June and shortly thereafter, mostly focusing on children’s programming, LGBT youth, their families and supporters. Given M4L’s children-specific agenda, these are the events most likely to be targeted for protest.

Philadelphia is the only county in eastern Pennsylvania that does not, as yet, have an active M4L chapter. Many school districts and libraries in surrounding counties have been subject to school library book bans, anti-LGBT program changes, and protests organized by M4L. Philadelphia area activists are planning actions to protest the right-wing group’s convention, though there is no word yet concerning what, if any, action is planned to support the Free Library.

All Pride-related events for every branch that has them scheduled are listed on the Free Library’s website at

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