Three arrests were made Tuesday as protesters violently clashed outside a Los Angeles County school district building, where board members had convened to vote on whether or not to recognize June as Pride Month, according to the Glendale Police Department.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the Glendale Unified School District headquarters both in opposition and in support of the school district’s LGBTQ policies. Anti-LGBTQ protesters waved American flags and chanted “Leave our kids alone” and the names of the five school board members. Counterprotesters waved Pride flags and held up signs rebuking anti-LGBTQ sentiments, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The board was about an hour into hearing comments from the public when police declared the protests “unlawful assembly” due to instances of physical violence, including unauthorized pepper spray use, police said. Attendees of the school board meeting were ordered to shelter in place, and police cordoned the building entrance with yellow tape.
Glendale police issued a statement saying that, “while most of the protest was peaceful, a small group of individuals engaged in behavior deemed unsafe.” Three people were arrested and removed from the protest. Just past 6 p.m., after additional attempts to de-escalate the situation were unsuccessful, the Glendale Police Department issued a dispersal order for the entire protest.
After police dispersed the protests, the school board unanimously voted to recognize June as Pride Month. Nayiri Nahabedian, president of the school board, said at the meeting that this was the fourth year that GUSD called for recognition of Pride Month, according to the Los Angeles Times.
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles LGBT Center responded to the incident in Glendale, condemning the violence and thanking the school board for “standing by the safety and acceptance of [Glendale] students and families.” Terra Russell-Slavin, chief impact officer of the center, said in a statement to NBC News that community organizers reported that Glendale parents and educators who came to the school board meeting were largely supportive of the LGBTQ community.
“Despite the uproar happening outside of the meeting, the School Board was simply voting on whether or not Glendale Unified should recognize June as LGBTQ+ Pride Month. What should have been an amicable meeting—even if there was disagreement among some community members—turned into a shelter-in-place order that frightened participants,” the statement reads.
The center also pushed back against the notion, popularized by the GOP, that LGBTQ-inclusive curricula in schools is harmful for children. It cited the Trevor Project, which found that LGBTQ inclusion can reduce the risk of emotional distress and even suicide in youth.
Topics of gender and sexuality in education have become a flashpoint for conservatives, who argue that these topics should not be taught or mentioned in schools. This rhetoric is fueled by an increasing number of laws enacted across the U.S. aimed at restricting access to gender-affirming health care for trans youth and limiting discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity in public grade schools.
Last week, an unidentified individual broke into Saticoy Elementary School in North Hollywood, California, and burned a rainbow flag before a scheduled Pride-themed assembly. The incident is currently being investigated as a hate crime by Los Angeles police.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You can also call the network, previously known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.