A series of posters that lewdly criticize Palo Alto libraries for displaying literature about LGBTQQ issues as part of its Pride Month celebration circulated around Mitchell Park over the weekend and drew a sharp rebuke from city officials Monday afternoon.
The poster includes a photo of a man and three children, with the words "Father's Day" above the photo. Under the poster are the words: "Part of what a father does is to protect his children. Someone is trying to seduce your kids sexually. This is happening here, now." An arrow after "now" points the Palo Alto City Library logo.
The photo is juxtaposed with photos of book covers, including "Trans: A Memoir" by Juliet Jacques and "The Wedding Heard 'Round the World: America's First Gay Marriage" by Michael McConnell and Jack Baker. The books are part of the Palo Alto City Library's Pride Month displays.
According to Library Director Monique le Conge Ziesenhenne, the posters were found at three locations: the Magical Bridge Playground, in the bathroom by the Mitchell Park tennis courts and at the crosswalk of Middlefield Road and Mayview Avenue. Officials do not know who had put up the posters, she said.
Images of the poster found their way to social media and were circulated on NextDoor and Facebook on Sunday. Councilman Adrian Fine, who became aware of the poster over the weekend, called it "hate speech" and urged city staff to issue a formal statement rebuking it.
"This kind of message is totally unacceptable in Palo Alto," Fine told the Weekly. "All people, especially our LGBTQ friends and neighbors, are welcome here in Palo Alto. I'm especially disappointed this happened in one of our libraries."
On Monday afternoon, Mayor Liz Kniss released a statement denouncing the poster.
"While the speech is protected by the First Amendment, the homophobic sentiment is disturbing," Kniss said. "A public library should offer the best available information to all members of the community, and support and protect the public's right to explore all information for themselves."
These types of incidents are rare in Palo Alto, Kniss said.
"But, when they do occur, it's important to call them out and reaffirm our commitment to maintaining our city as a diverse, supportive, inclusive and protective community through our actions and words," Kniss said.
The poster also caught the attention of Steven Lee, a member of the Human Relations Commission who took to Facebook on Sunday to "condemn this act in the strongest possible terms." Lee, who said he is speaking for himself and not for the commission or the city, said in a Sunday post that he didn't want the day to end "without folks knowing that the views expressed in this misinformed and disgusting poster do not reflect the views or values of our community."
"To our LGBTQQ+ community, to our young people and to our fathers and parents of all types, please know that I will do whatever I can to protect, defend and advocate for you," Lee wrote. "You are safe, wanted, and welcome in Palo Alto and you are and will always be valuable members of our community."