Rockton residents react to drag protest expenses
Our accompanying story examines the costs of the Rockton protests in more detail, quoting from some of the organizers.
At the Aug. 21 meeting of the Talcott Free Library board, former Rockton resident Katie Littlefield presented financial costs related to the Talcott Library's Drag Queen Q&A event on July 14, 2023, which was eventually held on Zoom.
To gather the information, Littlefield sent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System (ILEAS), Illinois State Police, Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS), Rockton Fire Protection District, Rockton Police Department, Rockton Public Works, South Beloit Police Department, Talcott Free Library, Village of Roscoe Police Department, and Winnebago County Sheriff's Department.
The initial library board meeting at the Rockton Township Community Center on June 26 included signs and prayers by Rockford Family Initiative and a march by Rockton Pride. After the board meeting, Rockton Pride stopped countering protesters and held a party on July 14 instead. Protests against the event by Rockford Family Initiative continued on July 10-14.
Neither the Illinois State Police or the Village of Roscoe had any cost associated with the protests. The Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) did not provide any figures. The seven other entities had a combined total of $14,140.73.
“Regardless of your position on whether for or against it, this information is helpful and must be looked at when making a decision on future events,” Littlefield said.
About this story
We strive to report fairly on both sides of every controversial issue. Both sides held protests and both sides contributed to fears of unrest. But there's a reason this article quotes drag opponents and only one drag supporter. Rockton Pride, the group formed in support of the drag queen Q&A, has decided not to respond to their critics at this time. Their leaders were present at the library board meeting, but chose not to speak. But members of both sides have said they had constructive discussions together after the Aug. 21 meeting.
Littlefield said, “This cost doesn't take into consideration the police officers that were called back to duty when they had vacations and family events already planned. It also doesn't take into account that the Village closed the pool for the Pride party, in case they [swimmers] were unaware that the party was taking place just outside the pool line.”
“This event was decided on per a request by the Teen Advisory Board. The Director and library board not only cost the taxpayers of Rockton, but also Winnebago County taxpayers, over $14,000 for one event.”
“Let's also mention that the idea that Rockton people only should voice their opinion really holds no water as the Winnebago County Police Department [Winnebago County Sheriff's Office] was brought in here.”
“Would it be safe to say that this event wasn't properly vetted by the board and the director? This should have, at a minimum, a certain vetting requirement, especially when it is a well-known controversial topic.”
“It is as simple as balancing community interests, cost analysis, risk assessment, board oversight, public input and transparency. These are common practices for good governance, and none of these were done.”
“All of those involved with making the decision to have this event to the board who voted for it surely knew what they were going to subject the community to. While they might not have known the full impact, you definitely knew it would have an impact and did it anyway.”
“Was the Drag Q&A worth the price tag for the community of people, and what benefit was derived for children who this event was specifically directed to?”
At a June 26 library meeting, Rockton native Jessica Green expressed the view of many in the LGBTQ community when she defended the event, "If you choose not to have the event at the library,...your choice could literally cost people their lives, because they will be living in a community that does not accept them. According to the Trevor Project, 1.8 million LGBTQ youth seriously consider attempting suicide every year, and at least one attempts every 45 seconds." Another community member points out that the civil rights movement in the 1960s caused huge police expenses as well.
Littlefield asked, “Will the library be paying back the Village of Rockton for the cost incurred? Surely we are all aware that government budgets are razor-thin.”
“If nothing else, I hope there is an apology to the village for making a decision that cost them. Lastly, I implore you to make future decisions using good governance protocol. It is not hard, it will make a difference and the community will thank you.”
Littlefield later presented these figures at the Sept. 5 Rockton Village Board meeting.
Resident Donna Gill also addressed the library board.
“I am not within your district, we live in no library district at all, we are the people on the outskirts,” Gill said. “We spent a lot of time here when my kids were growing up.”
“What happened with the Drag Queen Q&A really touched my heart, both as a mom and a grandma. This was the place we felt we could always send our kids.”
“The Drag Queen Q&A was set up during a weekday when parents are working, with no parental notification from what I saw, or permission.”
“This was such a controversial type of thing. I kept seeing that it has nothing to do with anything sexual.” (Our accompanying article shows how the drag queen dressed that day.)
“When this type of thing is pushed through the library without parental notification while people are working, that is a huge problem.”
“We pay an awful lot of taxes to the school, to the community and to Winnebago County. I just hope you would listen to the people of the community.”
“Nobody is trying to push anyone out or is against anybody,” Gill said. “Be considerate, think about the parents, but also think about the kids as they should not be sexualized in any way.”
Our accompanying story includes a first-hand report of what actually happened at the drag queen Q&A on Zoom.
MK Lindt spoke about the importance of the content that is found in books. “Our library's collection is a reflection of the diverse interests and needs of our patrons. It is crucial that we ensure content is both accurate and appropriate for all age groups.”
Lindt specifically addressed books, labeled as young adult, that she believes contain content and themes that "have matured well beyond the traditional confines of this genre.”
“I myself and others have spoken about this issue at a previous board meeting and nothing has been done.”
Lindt told the board that she believes that library policy clearly states non fiction judged to be young adult will be shelved with the adult collection.
“I find myself in a situation where the library director has resisted the notion of moving these books to the adult section. She suggested that I submit a request that these books be moved to the appropriate adult section.”
“While I respect the director and the board's willingness to listen to different viewpoints, I must insist that this situation calls for direct alignment with the established collection development policy.”
“By moving these books, it will demonstrate a commitment to maintaining a collection that adheres to our guidelines and provides a safe, educational and enjoyable environment for all members of the community.”
It turns out Lindt was looking at a previous library policy which the board had voted to discard but which was still on their website. The explanation: because of lack of space before the completion of the library expansion, Talcott Library had decided to shelve young adult books with the adult books, rather than with children's books. Now that there is a separate teen section of the library, all young adult books are kept there. The library updated their website after Lindt brought up the discrepancy. Patrons can still request books to be moved from the youth room to the adult collection, but that is governed by a different part of the library's General Guidelines.
Besides a General Guidelines document and Bylaws, the library has also adopted the 1953 Freedom to Read statement, the Library Bill of Rights, and the statement on Non-Removal of Challenged Materials from the American Library Association.
More about the issue
Michael Nolan was the person behind the “See You at the Library” event that took place on Aug. 5 at Talcott Library.
“I wanted to come here to thank Megan for allowing us to have this event and for the professionalism that was shown by the library staff. Megan also gave me great ideas,” Nolan said.
During the “See You at the Library" event, the book The Fight for Freedom Island, written by Dr. Trent Talbott and published by Brave Books, with art by Ali Elzeiny, was read by local teacher Marla Anderson.
This event is similar to national “See You at the Pole” events, scheduled this year on Sept. 27, 2023.
Nolan donated to the library a Founder's Bible and a video set featuring a Biblical course.
Michael McGinnis contributed to this reporting.
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