Proud boys join forces to ban 'Gender Queer' book from school library - rattling students in suburban Chicago | MCU Times

Proud boys join forces to ban ‘Gender Queer’ book from school library – rattling students in suburban Chicago

When a group of conservative Downers Grove parents this year organized to oppose mask mandates and justice initiatives in schools, it led to some tense school board meetings in the western suburb.

Still, students at Downers North and Downers South colleges said they did not see a major impact on their lives until parents tried to remove a graphic novel by a non-binary author from school libraries because of concerns that it included a couple sexually explicit illustrations – a fight that caught the attention of the Proud Boys, a far-right gang that has recently gripped the cultural wars taking place in school districts around the country.

A Proud Boys contingent eventually showed up for a board meeting in Downers Grove last Monday, where the book was discussed, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Edgar “Remy Del Toro” Delatorre, a leader of the group’s branch in northern Illinois who was at the uprising on January 6 in Washington, DC, said he was among about 10 proud boys present.

They were joined by Proud Boys employee Brian Kraemer, who has performed at demonstrations with members of the group and who was charged with brandishing a knife at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Joliet last summer.

Their presence at the meeting – where students said the men taunted them, even called them “pedophiles” to support keeping the book in the library – was “uneasy” and “harassing,” they told the Sun-Times. This has led to strife among students at the school, including one who wore a Donald Trump suit to class this week while arguing against the book.

“Politics has never before caused division in the school environment,” said Tabitha Irvin, a Downers North junior. “But it fell apart a bit after the board meeting.”

Telegram records target board meeting

Earlier this month, signs of tension began to leak from Community High School District 99 board meetings into high school hallways.

An article in Downers North student newspaper, DGN Omega, led to a lot of student talk about parents’ attacks on table policies – primarily by the conservative group “Wake Up D99” – and so did a lawsuit about mask mandates, which some parents joined. 145 Illinois School Boards and Governor JB Pritzker.

Then some area got Proud Boys sneezing about the complaints against “Gender Queer,” a book that has been targeted by conservative nationwide. The district’s board meeting on November 99 was promoted on Telegram, an encrypted messaging app favored by extremists and others on the far right. A flyer advertising a “SCHOOL BOARD SHOWDOWN” was sent to the Telegram Channel for the Northern Illinois branch of the Proud Boys, which has more than 280 subscribers.

“Please send the parents to [District 99] fight to keep pornography out of Downers Grove Schools, “the post said.

A Telegram account apparently belonging to Kraemer also encouraged other Telegram users to join him at the school board meeting.

“I want to speak out against child pornography in my children [sic] school. The left is planning to show itself strongly, “he wrote. Kraemer would not say if he has children, and he lives in New Lenox, about 30 miles from Downers Grove.

At the meeting, members of the group joined with parents and others in the audience with signs with “No Porn” and mocked the board and any students or parents who spoke in support of the book, but the group of men barely reached anyone. public remarks themselves. They also did not appear to be wearing Proud Boys regalia or clothing with the group’s distinctive black and yellow colors.

In a series of Twitter messages, Delatorre confirmed to the Sun-Times that he and other Proud Boys attended the meeting.

But he insisted that his group was not homophobic and that he and the other proud boys were merely opposed to the sexual images portrayed in “Gender Queer,” which is not required reading or part of the district curriculum. However, the group’s Telegram channel contains several recent posts that appear to be homophobic and transphobic.

He added that some proud boys are parents “worried about what [is] being shown to their sons and daughters, ”although it is unclear if he has children.

Delatorre, 34, of Chicago, was previously seen outside the U.S. Capitol when rioters stormed the building on Jan. 6. Other proud boys have since been caught in the extensive federal investigation into the uprising and its planning.

Delatorre was later arrested in connection with a vacuuming in March at an anti-Biden meeting in Schaumburg. The charges against him were eventually dropped, Cook County court records show.

Edgar “Remy Del Toro” Delatorre was charged with a misdemeanor in connection with a fight during a political protest in Schaumburg on March 27, 2021. The charges were later dropped.

Kraemer, 31, sat in one of the first few rows just behind the microphone stand, where the speakers spoke to the board.

Reached by phone and text message Tuesday, Kraemer threatened to call police and refused to answer questions, but acknowledged he was at the meeting. He asked where a Sun-Times reporter found his phone number because he “did not put it anywhere at last night’s meeting.”

He was arrested in July last year in Joliet when he allegedly disrupted a Black Lives Matter demonstration and “waved a hunting knife and held it in a threatening manner,” police said.

Will County court records show he was charged with misconduct and disorderly conduct in the case for allegedly “aggressively” pulling his vehicle into a crowd of protesters before showing the knife and shouting obscenities at protesters. A jury trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 4, records show.

Brian Kraemer was charged with misconduct and disorderly conduct after allegedly scolding protesters and flashing a knife during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Joliet on July 1, 2020.

Activist Candice Quinerly, one of the victims listed in an indictment, told the Sun-Times that Kraemer initially drove past his group, shouting, “You must all die.”

It was not their first interaction. Quinerly had seen Kraemer consider other protests, and just a few weeks earlier she had allegedly called her a “black antifa b —-,” she said.

“It just scares me that he’s just out here doing this to people,” she said.

‘It’s not okay’

A group of Downers North students attended the meeting to ask the school board to ignore the calls for “Gender Queer” to be banned.

One of these students, Josiah Poynter, an 18-year-old senior at Downers North, told the Sun-Times that after speaking to the board, a man in the audience repeatedly told him, “You are a pedophile. You promote pedophilia. “And threatened to call the police on him. In the parking lot later, the man allegedly drove up to Poynter and shouted” pedophile “at him, Poynter said.

Poynter showed a picture of the audience and pointed to Kraemer as the man who made the comments.

“The last thing we need is a 30- or 40-year-old man living in the middle of nowhere to call … some kid a ‘pedophile,'” Poynter said. “It’s not okay.”

Lauren Pierret, a senior at Downers Grove North, said “it made me very uncomfortable” that there were “men in the back shouting things for no reason” when she and her friends spoke to the board. The chairman of the school board repeatedly threatened to postpone the meeting due to shouted interruptions, scorn and comments to the speakers.

“Having a grown man behind me who said things to me was very nerve-wracking,” she said.

Hank Thiele, the district superintendent, did not respond directly when asked if he was concerned about Proud Boys members and associates attending the meeting.

“All District 99 Board of Education meetings are open to members of the public and there are always equal opportunities for participants to speak to the board,” he said in a statement.

Brian Kraemer (far right)
Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

Divided student group

Pierret said she had been surprised by the students’ unity and support so far this school year as they struggled with the return to personal learning during the pandemic. But students have been divided since last Monday, she said.

“Even those students whose parents are part of the Wake Up D99, they did not really make it a big deal or a big problem,” Pierret said. “But when the proud boys, this big scary group, came in and made this question so big, it forced the students to look at what’s going on.”

Irvin said several of her classes have discussed the week’s events, she said, and she first noticed a student wearing a “Trump 2024” hat as he expressed his dislike of “Gender Queer.”

“Students are now really caught up in the political controversy throughout the issue, and that’s exactly what nurtures groups like the proud boys,” she said. “We can not bend down to their level and engage with them because it only strengthens them.”

Downers Grove North High School student Lauren Pierret will make comments at the Community High School District 99 board meeting on Nov. 15.
Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

Parents distance themselves from Proud Boys

Parents wanting to remove the book tried to distance themselves from the proud boys. The “Wake Up D99” group wrote in a Facebook post that it will NEVER be associated with The Proud Boys “ and that its “flyer was used in combination with a Proud Boys Flyer without our permission.”

Terry Newsome, a “Wake Up D99” father who spoke at the meeting, said he did not want his worries as a parent of two high school students to be mixed with Proud Boys messages. Newsome said he and another parent have scheduled a meeting with district administrators this week to discuss the book.

“You got left- and right-wing politics with antifa and Proud Boys, who have their own little political agendas, I guess,” Newsome said, referring in part to the decentralized anti-fascist activists who track and protest against extremist groups. But he said it “has nothing to do” with his complaints.

National effort

The proud boys have recently joined school board protests around the country, performing at a meeting in North Carolina against mask mandates and force another in the state to move its meetings online, similar to what happened at a meeting in Oregon.

David Goldenberg, regional director of the Midwest’s Anti-Defamation League office, said it was now “a common trend” for members of the Proud Boys and other extremists to attend school board meetings and other public events “to either recruit, to counter [or] to engage. “

Meanwhile, state and federal lawmakers have noticed the presence of the proud boys. Illinois General Assembly Five Members LGBTQ Caucus urged district officials to protect queer students “from hatred and censorship by immediately rejecting calls to censor a queer positive book in the high school library.”

Thiele said at the meeting that the book will remain in circulation while administrators review the parents’ complaints.

The American rep. Sean Casten, the Democratic congressman representing the district, said he has been talking to board members since last Monday about student safety.

“I think the Proud Boys are reprehensible. They are part of the biggest threat to our country, domestic terrorism, and they are part of it, ”Casten said.

“Let’s be completely honest about this. If you’re an adult and you go through a library in an elementary school or high school and have sexual thoughts, it’s you who’s the problem. It’s not the book.”

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