LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore praised police Saturday for their handling of a clash between protesters and LGBTQ advocates over a Pride Month assembly at Saticoy Elementary School.
“Our people worked effectively alongside our LAUSD PD partners in providing for the safety of all involved,” Moore tweeted Saturday. “I’m proud of their professionalism in the face of abusive insults & challenging circumstances.”
Friday morning's demonstration featured over 100 people, and turned confrontational as the two sides engaged in a tense standoff that led to some shoving and angry shouting before police formed a skirmish line to separate the sides.
“It’s a sad morning,” Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho told local media outside the campus Friday as dozens of parents, protesters and others amassed outside the school on Ethel Avenue, some shouting into bullhorns or waving signs and flags.
A large police presence was at the school in anticipation of the protest by parents of the assembly, which was set to include the reading of a book about diverse and different types of families. “The Great Big Book of Families” is approved by the district, according to Carvalho.
“I think there’s fairly good awareness as to what the book represents (and) what the book does not represent,” Carvalho told reporters outside the school. “But as I said, people today easily pick political sides and decide to stick to the political sides, while to a certain extent ignoring the reality and the truth; so there’s general awareness as to what the book represents.”
No arrests were reported, and as the morning wore on, the numbers of people slowly diminished.
Parents opposed to the Pride event created an Instagram page several weeks ago under the name Saticoy Elementary Parents to express displeasure with the assembly and called for parents to keep their kids home from school on Friday. But they also announced plans to conduct a protest at the campus to pass out leaflets to others about the issue.
Renato Lira, director of the San Fernando Valley LGBTQ Center, said in advance that volunteers with that organization also planned to be at the campus in a show of support for LGBTQ teachers and parents at the school.
What resulted was a mass of humanity assembled outside the school as children began arriving, with protesters wearing shirts and carrying signs with slogans such as “Leave Our Kids Alone” and “Parental Choice Matters.” Some people in the crowd waved Pride and American flags. It was unclear if all of the protesters, some of whom carried signs accusing the district of “grooming” the students, were actually parents of children at the campus.
Parents organizing the protest repeatedly insisted this week that their grievance with the assembly was not a sign of bigotry or intolerance of the LGBTQ community, only a statement of their belief that a Pride assembly is inappropriate for elementary school-aged children, and that parents should have the right to decide when to educate their children on the topic.
“We stand with (the) LGBTQ community in solidarity,” a message posted on the organizers’ Instagram page proclaimed Thursday. “Our protest is against LAUSD. In elementary schools, kids should learn math, English, science.”
“We want to reiterate that our protest is in no way an attack on the LGBTQ community,” according to a statement on the page. “We recognize the importance of promoting equality and acceptance for all individuals. Our intention is to raise the parents’ voices in wanting a say in when this topic is discussed with our kids.”
The organizers also posted repeated messages calling on protesters to be peaceful, calm and respectful.
Tensions heightened earlier in the week with news that a small Pride flag that was on display outside a campus classroom was burned during the weekend of May 20-21, prompting a hate crime investigation by police.
“The burning of the Pride Flag was an expression of hate. We continue to pursue leads in identify the individual responsible,” Moore tweeted Saturday. “There is NO place for hate in Los Angeles. Threats, intimidation, and acts of violence from any side of this debate must have consequences.”