A Baptist pastor was arrested and jailed on Saturday after refusing to move across the street from the Spokane, Washington Public Library while exercising his free speech against a “Drag Queen Story Hour.” The event had a significant militaristic police presence, including camouflaged snipers positioned atop the roof to oversee the large crowd that stood both for and against the men dressed like women reading stories to children.
Afhsin Yaghtin of New Covenant Baptist Church was arrested for obstructing an officer as he contended with police that the South Hill Library is public property and that he should be able to speak adjacent to the facility instead of being required to stand across the street.
Video footage posted to social media shows police telling Yaghtin that if he does not support the event, he needs to stand on the other side of the street, away from the library — though those defending the drag queens were permitted to be on the same side.
“So, I can stand right here,” Yaghtin states to one officer. “No, you are going to need to go across the street,” the officer replies.
Yaghtin then speaks to another officer, and is again told to stand across the street. He asserts that the library should be considered public property as the event is solely in one room.
“This is a public library. The only event that they’ve reserved is a private room,” Yaghtin argued. “The rest of the library is U.S. property. … I have the right to free speech wherever I want to speak.”
He was soon taken into custody and charged with obstructing the police, or as reports state, “trying to enter the non-designated protest area.” Yaghtin has since been released.
According to The Spokesman-Review, an estimated 40 police officers were stationed outside of the library. Those who supported the event — approximately 400 in all — stood adjacent to library property, and those opposed to the “Drag Queen Story Time” — about 200 concerned residents — were asked by police to stand on the other side of the street.