A man has been found guilty of a public order offence after protesting against a drag queen story-telling event for children at Tate Britain.
Lance O’Connor, of Plaistow in east London, was accused of being “aggressive and intimidating” towards organisers and attendees – and making a series of comments that were motivated by “hostility relating to sexual orientation and transgender identity”.
The 59-year-old had denied two counts of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress.
District judge Neeta Minhas convicted him at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Monday of the offence against one of the gallery’s operations managers, Matthew Rowan.
But she found O’Connor not guilty of the charge in relation to police liaison officer Anderson De Santis.
The judge said the defendant’s comments to Mr Rowan went “beyond freedom of expression into hate speech”.
The Tate, in Millbank, central London, had been hosting Drag Queen Story Hour UK on February 11, with tales told by Aida H Dee, who was described on the gallery’s website as “the first drag artist in Europe to read stories to children in a nursery”.
People demonstrating against the event were at the scene, as well as counter-protesters.
The prosecution told court that the defendant, who identified himself as “Lance”, was part of a group of five people who went to Tate Britain to protest against the story-telling session.
O’Connor was accused of being “aggressive and intimidating” towards Mr Rowan, who was standing outside the event doors, and of displaying the same behaviour to members of the public trying to attend.
Prosecutor Luke Staton said: “At one stage, when a mother and daughter attempted to enter the event room, the Crown say that the defendant said words to the effect of ‘They are indoctrinating children in there. There’s a man dressed as a woman and he is defending paedophiles’.
“The defendant, the Crown say, also said to Mr Rowan words to the effect of ‘Do you think it’s appropriate for a man to wear women’s clothing?’ and made further comments about grooming and paedophilia.”