A California school board meeting descended into chaos on Tuesday when protesters began fighting in the streets amid a debate over whether to recognize Pride Month.
The Glendale Unified School District was to hold a vote to officially mark Pride this year – as they have done for the past four years. Gender and sexual identity studies programs were not on the agenda of the meeting.
However, the meeting was marred in the evening by angry scenes outside.
Protests had been peaceful during the day, but around 6 p.m. scuffles broke out between around 200 protesters and counter-protesters.
School administrators said many of the protesters had no students in the district.
Police in Glendale, Calif., are pictured on Tuesday separating protesters angered by a plan to recognize Pride Month and against protesters supporting the move
About 50 officers were deployed to the school board meeting in Glendale on Tuesday
Rival groups could be seen throwing punches and the police pulled out their batons to separate them
The police deployed around 50 officers to the scene, CBS News reported.
Officers used their batons to break up the crowd, who were throwing punches.
Police ordered protesters to disperse and threatened to use force to disperse the crowd.
Their efforts to persuade the crowd to disperse failed, prompting officers to arrest at least three people, charged with using pepper spray and obstruction.
Many people at the protest thought the council was discussing the program, which was not the case.
“Introducing a curriculum for K-6 on gender ideology, that’s what we’re against,” said Any Torosyan, a parent from Glendale.
Torosyan said KTLA 5 that she believes the money should be spent focusing on improving student test scores.
Another protester, Philip George, also believed the meeting was about the program.
“We were talking about kids,” he told KTLA.
“They are not ready for such choices. It confuses them and ultimately these are things parents should decide.
Activists descended on the meeting on Tuesday to make their feelings known
Protesters on both sides were largely peaceful until about 6 p.m.
Those campaigning against Pride Month recognition wore ‘Leave Our Kids Alone’ T-shirts
Those protesting the pride statement wore t-shirts that read, “Leave Our Kids Alone.”
Supporters shouted, “Racist, sexist, anti-gay. The Christian fascists are leaving.
Vivian Vekchian, the school district superintendent, argued that representation in schools is important.
“Our main goal in our school district is to be inclusive,” she said.
“Every student matters, every member of the family matters. We follow state laws and California Department of Education guidelines.
The scuffles prompted police to ask the school board to go indoors for recess while officers deal with the chaos.
Nayiri Nahabedian, chairman of the school board
It is unclear whether the meeting resumed and whether a vote was taken.
School board chairman Nayiri Nahabedian confirmed that the building had been locked down amid the protests, with no one allowed to enter or leave the building.
Maebe Putlo, who supports Pride Month recognition, told KTLA the move was important for young children, saying she herself was confused as a child.
“They should be taught because a lot of them already know by age three who they are and they need to know their options in life,” she said.
“To shut them down, to shut down the questions they already have in their minds.
“I wish there were books I could turn to, mentors I could turn to, or facilities I could turn to – because I grew up feeling totally alone.”
The demonstration ended at nightfall.
The same groups that fought outside GUSD headquarters demonstrated outside a North Hollywood elementary school last week, with the rally also peaceful during the day but contentious at night.
The GUSD expected Tuesday’s meeting to draw protesters.
On Monday, they posted a message on Facebook, saying “intentional and harmful misinformation has been circulated about what is taught in our district and how we serve our students.”
The district said there had been a misinformation campaign about the LGBTQ+ curriculum, sex education and support for transgender and gender non-conforming youth.