Sometime in the early morning of April 7, an anti-book ban billboard in Abita Springs, Louisiana, was set on fire. The billboard was created by a woman involved with the St Tammany Library Alliance and designed by her trans child. It was meant to raise awareness of book bans in the Parish and it was located on their private property.
The joyful billboard featured a red headed child with a brightly colored book. The text beside it reads “Ban Hate, Not Books.”
The only word remaining following the fire was “hate.”
On the reverse of the billboard was a memorial for the woman’s deceased son and it, too, was damaged.
In response to the arson, a fundraiser has been set up to not only replace the billboard but to also set up security cameras and additional signage for distribution throughout the county. The funds will also aid in creating yard signs to spread the word about book bans even further. You can donate to the efforts here.
St. Tammany Parish has been at the center of months of protest for and against LGBTQ+ books in the public library. It began over complaints of Pride displays in June 2022 and the controversy picked up steam in October, when some residents suggested that the queer books in the collection depicted pornography and were therefore against state law. Several conservative groups in the area and across the state have continued to challenge materials they deem inappropriate, and they’ve been receiving funding to do so thanks to groups like those who have waged censorship campaigns in other Parishes across the state.
In response to these attempts at book banning, concerned citizens created the St. Tammany Library Alliance to both advocate for their library and raise awareness of both local and state-level legislation targeting public libraries. Louisiana’s Attorney General Jeff Landry has put a bounty out on library workers, opening up a line where anyone can report professionals who have “inappropriate” materials in their collection and/or allow young readers access to them.
The burning of an anti-book ban billboard is a direct attack on First Amendment Rights.
For those who can attend, the St. Tammany Library Alliance and Queer Northshore are hosting a protest Saturday, April 15, to raise more awareness of and protest book bans and anti-trans legislation in the state. The event will help attendees write letters to their legislators against the bills codifying hate across Louisiana.
More information about the event, as well as suggested messaging for those who can attend, can be found here.