Left Coast Right Watch
Back to Articles


February 29, 2024 by ABNER HÄUGE

LCRW is 100% reader-funded!

Support LCRW

On Monday, Sarah Stephens gave birth to a new webpage. timetostand.org redirects to the failed gubernatorial candidate’s “Make California Gold Again” site, emblazoned with a flyer for a church meeting Saturday, March 16th (3:16, get it?.) Stephens and her coalition’s goal is to pass a draconian anti-trans law that would bar trans students in California from using their actual gender’s bathrooms, ban trans girls in 7th grade and up from girls’ sports and force schools to out students to their parents if they begin identifying by a different name and different gender than they were assigned. The flyer is peppered with endorsements from hate groups including Mass Resistance and Turning Point Faith. They’re set to meet at Glory Church in Los Angeles.

LCRW first reported on Stephens in 2021 when she drove the getaway car for Aaron Simmons, who smashed a metal club over documentarian Rocky Romano’s head and then fled during an anti-trans protest. Stephens has a long history of associating with the far right and is (or at least was when it was fashionable) a QAnon believer, going to QAnon-led “Save the Children” events and posting their slogans. She listed her profession as “preacher” during her gubernatorial run in 2021, following the recall against Gavin Newsom. She came in 26th out of 46 candidates with about 10 thousand votes.

The main focus of the event is to gather signatures and recruit organizers for a petition to put the the “Protect Kids of California Act of 2024” on the ballot. The “Protect Kids” Act is an initiative that would, if passed, force trans children to use school facilities like bathrooms based on the gender they were assigned at birth, prohibit trans girls in grade 7 and up from participating in female sports and repeal previous protections for trans children. It would also require schools to out trans students to their parents if they’re under 18 and prohibit gender-affirming healthcare for trans people under 18 “even if parents consent or treatment is medically recommended.” 

The “Protect Kids” Act is endorsed by Assemblymember Bill Essayli (R-63) who represents Riverside, Norco and other surrounding areas. Riley Gaines, the former athlete-turned anti-trans lobbyist, endorsed the initiative. Chloe Cole, an anti-trans activist who detransitioned (reverted back to the gender assigned at birth after transitioning) endorsed it as well. Cole appeared alongside masked Proud Boys and the Q Shaman during her time as an activist. The petition is funded by Students First for California Committee—the California branch of Students First, a pro-charter lobbying group that’s spent millions trying to eliminate teachers’ tenures and pushes “parents’ rights” agendas among other such goals. Its founder is Michelle Rhee, a one-time speculated pick for Trump’s Education Secretary. Her husband is former Sacramento Mayor and professional basketball player Kevin Johnson.

A poster saying "time to stand! save our children" depicting a child with a rainbow flag blindfold or gag. the event is at glory church 1801 grand ave. in Los Angeles and is littered with logos on the bottom from the following sponsors: pray, nueva vision 360, protect kids california, make california gold again, leave our kids again, moms on the ground, turning point faith, our watch, tv next, the salt and light council, cross, california moms for america, the white rose resistance, take our power back show, public school exit and some kind of silhouette of a sheep with no identifying organization attached
The poster for the 3/16 meeting. QR code blocked out by LCRW staff.

“Protect Kids California,” the group behind the organizing push for the “Protect Kids” Act, is listed on the bottom of the flyer. They were founded by Johnathan Zachreson of the Roseville City Elementary School District’s board. Zachreson also started the ReOpen California Facebook page that was part of the antivaxx/COVID-denial “ReOpen” mvement. They share space on the bill with Mass Resistance, an SPLC-designated hate group. A big-name sponsor on the bill is Turning Point Faith, the church outreach arm of Turning Point USA. TPUSA started more openly embracing white nationalist rhetoric in the past few months. Also on the list of sponsors for the event is the California branch of the pro-Trump nonprofit Moms for America, the Christian Nationalist Salt and Light Council, the Nueva Vision radio station, and Seth Gruber’s anti-abortion “White Rose Resistance.”

Piloting the effort is “Leave Our Kids Alone” (LOKA), an anti-queer street brawling crew-turned nonprofit who emerged last summer at protests in Glendale and Saticoy. LOKA’s filing date was the same day as a brawl in Saticoy on June 2nd last year. In the leadup to the brawl, a pride flag was left burned outside an elementary school classroom and a trans teacher had to flee the district for their safety. During the protests that day, much of the public got its first taste of their branding—shirts with their ripoff “Straight Outta Compton” logo worn by an aggressive, mostly male and middle-aged crowd shouting homophobic insults at counter-protestors, backed up by men wearing paramilitary gear and carrying bear mace and other weapons. One got on a megaphone and said he wanted to “zip-tie” the principal of the elementary school. After the protest, people in the crowd beat an unhoused man until he was unresponsive. A few days later on the 6th, they showed up at Glendale’s school board and instigated brawls with counter-protestors there. At the end of the day there were three arrests. Proud Boys and J6 rioters Andy Lai, Adam Kiefer, Derrick Kinneson and Tony Moon were present in the crowd. LOKA continued to organize throughout the year, always bringing Proud Boys and other violent fascists with them.

LOKA’s business filing lists the address of Eduard Aslanyan, who attacked LCRW contributor Kelly Stuart and stole her phone on October 25th last year during a Drag Queen Story Hour protest in San Fernando. An Eduard Aslanyan was convicted of felony assault in 2008 and medicare fraud in 2012, though LCRW could not confirm at press time it was the same man. 

Manuk Grigoryan, another LOKA member, appears to be a major organizer for the event. Grigoryan’s livestreams are usually unhinged. He talks about how as a child he’d slit bats’ throats and dip sunglasses in their blood because someone told him it would let him see through peoples’ clothes. He’s ideated on camera about “putting a boot up [journalist Kelly Stuart’s] ass” and joked about biting Orange School Board Trustee Kris Erikson’s throat. He called queer people “demonic” and said they were “coming for [his] children” in a livestream last year and said that “Jews crucified Jesus because they didn’t want Christianity to be born.” He mused that doctors who do gender-affirming care get shot in Russia, then asked followers to send him lists of such doctors in the U.S. “so we can get rid of them.” In another livestream when talking about going to the border and trying to block migrants from coming in, he excitedly asked “When we get to use guns?” before the host hastily cut him off. Grigoryan faced controlled substance possession charges in 2003.

But LOKA is trying to present a clean image to voters for this campaign, so Grigoryan took a more toned-down approach in his livestream pitch for the “Protect Kids” initiative on the 22nd. In the livestream Grigoryan describes meeting with 20 pastors, five doctors and three civil rights attorneys and eventually settling on 7000-congregant Glory Church for their venue. Grigoryan said there will be security at the door and named Stuart and a local activist as people they’re specifically looking to keep out of the event. Grigoryan also brought on Tracy Schroeder, a Republican currently running for State Assembly in District 46. Schroeder, who previously worked for Robert Kennedy Jr.’s antivaxx group, Children’s Health Defense, quoted Mark 9:42:

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”

The religious right often uses this verse to justify violence and violent rhetoric against queer people. Groomer slander against anyone not straight or cis is the explicit, baseline assumption for anti-queer right wing politics. The poster itself gives it away—it depicts a child with a rainbow flag gag around his mouth.

During the livestream, Grigoryan labeled pro-LGBTQ+ opponents of the initiative and Democratic politicians like Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta as “demons, monsters, evil” and “devils” and called their fight to pass it a “battle between good and bad.”

“A Christian nation has awoken in California,” Grigoryan said on the livestream, saying they’re up against “Antifa and communist revolutionaries.”

One of the pastors Grigoryan likely spoke with when planning the upcoming meeting is Hanzel Orzame, pastor of the Christian Nationalist Ekklesia Church in Pomona, which baptizes Proud Boys. Researchers leaked a private Telegram chat to reporter Tess Owen in which Orzame conversed with neo-Nazis. One of the guests at his sermons was J6 rioter Tony Moon, who also made a brand out of attacking a journalist with a metal water bottle. Orzame is promoting the event in his Telegram channel and going on Stephens’ livestream to talk about it.

“We all know that boys do not belong in girls’ spaces,” Grigoryan said on Stephens’ show.

“Amen,” Orzame replied. “Amen.”

LCRW would like to thank Kelly Stuart, the account “Not That Guy” on Twitter and other antiscist researchers who didn’t want to be named for their help with research for this article.


Abner Häuge (they/them) is a journalist and you can’t say they’re not because they got a Master’s from UC Berkeley’s Journalism School. After better journalist @desertborder texted them a hilarious screenshot of a Fox News segment, they spent all night memeing ‘ATTACK AND DETHRONE GOD’ and it became their catchphrase. You can usually find them in the bisexual aisle of the supermarket stocking up on Pocari Sweat for the boog.


Featured Articles

To top