JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Dozens of people demonstrated early Friday evening over the Jacksonville Public Library's decision to cancel an event for LGBTQ teenagers due to safety concerns.
The "Storybook Pride Prom" event for teenagers ages 14 to 18 had been scheduled for Friday night at the Willowbranch Branch Library on Park Street in Riverside. Instead, more than 75 people attended a demonstration about 5:40 p.m. across the street from that particular library in hopes of sending a message that they will continue being who they are despite the prom being called off.
“It’s nice to go out and just be able to be yourself," Dakota Wood said.
By showing up with Pride flags and signs in hand, demonstrators felt their message was loud and clear.
"I am here to support the teens that were supposed to be here -- to lift them up," Cynthia Baker said.
Among those at the demonstration was Cadyn Horton, who said she was troubled that the event she had planned to attend was canceled.
“It deeply affected me, not just because I wanted to go, but to think that people outside can just say 'no' to LGBT people that need a safe home and a place to go to express themselves," she said.
But Horton said it was amazing to see the overwhelming support from the community Friday.
“It was nice to show up and see the support that we have here," said Horton, who feels the demonstration will the set the tone for future LGBTQ events and show that they are safe.
A group of Jacksonville police officers could be seen nearby while the demonstration was taking place.
Tim Rogers, director of the Jacksonville Public Library, told News4Jax on Wednesday that he canceled the sold-out event because there were questions about there being enough safety and security.
"I made the call with the information I had at the time and that information was not anything that was an imminent threat," Rogers said. "It was about the emotional and physical safety of the kids that they were inviting to this teen program, and that's all it was."
In response to his decision, some have called for Rogers to resign.
"I don't plan to resign," he said Wednesday. "I don't think there is a need for that, but I do think we broke a trust with the community we serve."
Some supporters of the "Storybook Pride Prom" said they aren’t buying the library director’s reason for canceling.
"My purpose for being here is to raise awareness that Tim Rogers is the one who canceled the event at the Jacksonville Public Library, allegedly because the library had received death threats and abusive phone calls that were not reported to JSO (Jacksonville Sheriff's Office)," said Bebe Deluxe. "They were not classified as hate crimes and he did this solely himself to cancel the event."
On Saturday, there will be a Pride event at the Museum of Science and History. MOSH said it will not cancel the event despite calls for protest.