A man has been found guilty of a public order offence after protesting against a drag queen story-telling session.
Lance O’Connor, of Plaistow in east London, was accused of being “aggressive and intimidating” and making a series of comments that were motivated by “hostility relating to sexual orientation and transgender identity” to attendees and workers at the event at the Tate Britain gallery.
The 59-year-old was found guilty of one count of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress, towards gallery operations manager, Matthew Rowan.
District judge Neeta Minhas said comments to Mr Rowan went “beyond freedom of expression into hate speech”.
O’Connor was found not guilty on the same charge, in relation to police liaison officer Anderson De Santis, who said he had heard the defendant make a comment about attendees indoctrinating young children into paedophilia.
The event, hosted at the central London gallery in February, involved drag performer Aida H Dee, who was described as “the first drag artist in Europe to read stories to children in a nursery”.
O’Connor was part of a group of people who went to protest against the event.
“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,'” prosecutor Luke Stanton told the court.
“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.”
Mr Rowan and PC De Santis said O’Connor’s comments were “upsetting” and made them feel “uncomfortable”.
Defending, Sundeep Pankhania, said O’Connor does not “hold any non-trans ideologies”.
He said he was protesting because of a “link” he believed existed between Dee and an alleged convicted paedophile – Darren Moore – whom the court heard is now dead.
“He done a eulogy for him [Moore] on the internet and also he done a GoFundMe page (for his funeral),” O’Connor claimed about Dee, when giving evidence.
O’Connor is expected to be sentenced on 11 September.
Written by: Newsroom