It was, as one local activist accurately described it, “Warped Tour for QAnon.”
All-stars from Q-world and the antivaxx/COVID conspiracy theory scene took their big-tent revival, “ReAwaken America,” to Keizer, Oregon (just outside of Salem, the state’s capitol) this past weekend, selling out about 4,000 tickets for $250 a pop (half-off if you’re a pastor.) The guests of note included retired general and QAnon saint Michael Flynn, Trump son “Eric,” antivaxx attorney and scientologist Leigh Dundas, COVID-spreading cult leader Sean Feucht, and Disney merch-burning preacher Greg Locke. Other attendees included Proud Boys LARPing as security and a guy on the roof of the venue with a rifle. Counter-protesters rallied in support of indigenous groups to protest both days.
WHAT IS THIS QANON ROADSHOW ANYWAYS?
“ReAwaken America” is put on by Clay Clark, a Tulsa podcast host and promoter of Trump’s big lie. Clark was sued last December by Eric Coomer, a Dominion Voting Systems employee who claimed Clark spread 2020 election fraud conspiracy theories targeted at him, leading to threats and harassment. Clark wasn’t the only one who targeted Coomer at the event, either. Joe Oltman, who arguably started the conspiracy theory against Coomer, spoke as well.
While in recent years, QAnon beliefs have become divorced from their eponymous anonymous 8chan poster, this was absolutely a QAnon event. It featured former QAnon promoters like Ann Vandersteel, Gene Ho, John Chambers, and cranks like Lori Gregory, who appeared on a QAnon show to promote antivaxx conspiracy theories. There were, in total, 38 featured speakers, at least ten of which were there specifically to promote antivaxx and COVID paranoia. It was also a highly religious event—six people on the list had “Pastor” in front of their names with other evangelical figures speaking as well.
“Jesus is king and with him on our side, we will win this thing!” a quote from Clark on the poster for the event read.
Not all clergy are happy with the tour, however. A group called Faithful America paid for a mobile billboard denouncing QAnon and the event and telling speakers to “stop twisting our faith to attack democracy.”
The QAnon revival had a hard time getting started. It was originally supposed to be in Redmond at the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center, but was moved first to the River Church in Salem and then Volcanoes Stadium after public scrutiny. In public records the Bend Bulletin uncovered, an event planner for ReAwaken named Troy Smith claimed that Republican commissioners for Deschutes County assured them they wouldn’t enforce the then-active state mask mandate.
“I also asked the commissioners about the Deschutes County sheriff’s office on two points and confirmed (1) They will be at our call in the unlikely situation of ANY trouble developing to disrupt the event (2) They have made it known they will NOT enforce the governor’s mask mandate,” Smith wrote to Clay Clark in an email the Bulletin uncovered.
County Commissioner Tony DeBone denied giving any such assurances, as did the sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office added that they were focusing on educating people about masks, not enforcing them. Clark told News Channel 21 they moved the event from Redmond “because they were going to require masks and stuff like that.” Clark also told News 21 there was a no-refund, no transfer policy for tickets “because I’m in charge. I’m a capitalist.” The River Church in Salem offered to host the event, but Clark moved it to Volcanoes Stadium presumably because its higher occupancy meant he could sell more tickets.
Businesses in nearby Keizer Station mall, including the Target, were closed Friday and Saturday, according to the Statesman Journal, because of concerns over employee safety and traffic. Bus routes and traffic around the stadium were impacted during the event.
“There were already a lot of motorhomes and such camped-out in the surrounding parking lots [the night before],” Finch, an activist who attended the counter-rally told LCRW. On her way to the counter-rally in the morning, there was a sign on I-5 saying “CAUTION: EVENT AHEAD.” Finch said traffic was at a crawl early in the morning and people were running out of places to park. Cars were also getting towed from the Target parking lot.
“One of the [counter-demo] attendees told us they had a buddy that did security consulting for Target,” Finch recounted. “The decision to close was because ‘antifa’ was going to be countering.”
Counter-protesters gathered both days of the event near the venue, largely not engaging with the ReAwaken crowd. They set up across the street from the parking lot for the event and a big display of Trump-world flags atop a merch table. A handful of Proud Boys and others patrolled the parking lot and traffic was heavy.
Indigenous groups danced and performed ceremonies and people held banners that read things like “Welcome to KKKeizer” and “Stolen Lands.” Indigenous groups brought their own security and there were also people in black bloc gear shielding protesters’ faces with umbrellas from the local racists who’d come up to get up close and personal. Local neo-nazis had threatened the counter-demonstration online prior to its start, posting the flyer for it on social media with “187161” under it—’187’ being the section of the California Penal Code for Murder and ‘161’ being a numerical for ‘anti-fascist action.’
“There were several pickups cruising the parking lots and a LOT of cops. There were several patrol vehicles, at least 4 motorcycle cops and a few “undercover” vehicles. All Keizer PD initially, later joined by Oregon State Patrol (OSP) and Marion County Sheriff vehicles—all circling where we [counter-protestors] had been told to park and the corner where the counter was being set up. Completely ignoring the event, and the resulting traffic,” Finch recalled.
She said the funniest were the bike cops.
“Two to three packs of bike cops cruising around the parking lots in groups of 4. I overheard one group crying to a customer outside of Marshals about how hard their job is, and how unappreciated they feel,” Finch recounted. “At that point on Friday there were at least twice as many cops as protestors…so my pity was somewhat limited.”
The counter started small, about 12 people, Finch said, but eventually grew to about 75 at its peak, “a good mix of liberal church clergy, indigenous folks and folks in various forms of bloc,” Finch said.
“The group of clergy and church going folks brought food and drinks. They seemed a little offended by the cursing, but generally kept to themselves. There was very little peace policing, although one of the indigenous elders present did remind people from time to time to stay on our corner and stay on message, that the event was being held on stolen land,” she recounted. People didn’t get spicy with their language without provocation, however.
“We had folks with umbrellas blocking ppl from filming,” Finch said.
And plenty of the attendees and local bigots were filming—and provoking.
PROUD BOYS AND OTHER EXTREMISTS’ PRESENCE
The Proud Boys were out in force for ReAwaken and there were neo-Nazis heckling the counter-demo and in attendance at the event.
Greyson Arnold, who said refugees should be shot to death and undocumented immgrants should be executed and once filmed himself reading a bunch of antisemitic signs and calling them “based”, attended the event. Arnold is part of the Nick Fuentes/America First/Groyper distended universe. He was a guest on ReAwaken tour owner Clay Clark’s show on Tuesday.
“Lots of people, mostly men, walked through the protest. Some tried to “debate” folks,” Finch recounted. “People waiting in line in the cars shouted at us and my favorite held a sign reading “Drill Baby Drill”, a Bible, and an American flag. Lots of folks filmed us from their cars on their way out. Groypers smirked at us from across the street.”
“For our folks, a couple of people had bullhorns that they mostly used to ask how event attendees felt about “attending a Klan rally” that generally got people riled,” Finch recounted. She said that the Awaken attendees “were deeply offended that we would call them insurrectionists, and mostly retorted that they specifically didn’t do that.”
Finch recalled one couple who “argued for quite a while that there were no Nazis or Proud Boys at the event. They “hadn’t seen anything like that” and they had “native friends”—and we were the racist ones.”
Finch said that “there were at least 5 Proud Boys (some in black and yellow and some not) in the parking lot.”
“They were acting as security for the event & were in every parking lot scoping out the area. There were a few that would come out of the gates & only came out maybe 20ft. It was actually really pathetic.” Niki from the Backyard Politix podcast, who attended the counter-demo both days, told LCRW.
“We heard later they weren’t permitted inside! None of the Proud Boys came near. They mostly lurked in the bushes watching,” Finch said.
Among the Proud Boys lurking and watching was Joshua Dornon, who has an active case in Marion County for two felony counts (riot and unlawful use of a weapon) related to a brawl last July in Oregon City. There, Proud Boys once again assaulted counter-protestors and journalists. At ReAwaken, Finch said Dornon “got heckled for a while.”
While the counter-protest was mostly without incident, two local independent reporters, Chris L. and Alix Powell, said they were kicked out of the counter-demonstration on Friday and then cornered by a group of Proud Boys.
L. claims they were asked to leave because he had a camera. After hearing that riot cops were at the demonstration, both he and Powell went back and found none in sight. They were then accosted by one of the demonstrators.
“The tone of that request that we leave carried the implication that we wouldn’t be welcome back even without the camera. So we stepped away,” Powell wrote.
Powell said that after the incident, they “were approached by a group of proud boys in the parking lot who hung around us for about 20 minutes.” She said they had to “smile and be cordial” with the Proud Boys “because you can’t have faith that anyone has your back.” The Proud Boys left after a while, Powell said, but then returned.
“Chris and Alix is it?” Powell recounted a Proud Boy asking her. “She posted that she had to be cordial to us. We’ve got people watching all over socials,” the Proud Boy said. The group often names journalists to intimidate them and is well-known, especially in Oregon, for harassing reporters, including DSM staff.
“After posting that, I crossed the street with my buddy and they came over AGAIN, the largest of the group dressed in blue standing off to the side parallel to us,” Powell recounted. She said she tried to rejoin the counter-protest and someone asked what she was doing with the Proud Boys. While she explained, someone approached L., “seemingly ready to throw hands.” L. left and Powell did shortly after.
Finch didn’t see the confrontation, but said the only conflicts she saw with people filming “turned into confrontations when the ones filming made it so by answering back with insults etc. or continuing to blatantly film even when asked not to.”
Finch also said several people asked for permission to take activists’ photos, including hers. She declined, but some other activists didn’t mind being photographed. Most people “were careful to take pics of signs, distance shots etc rather than close up faces,” she said.
On Saturday, a man named Jeremy Roberts came to harass the counter-demonstrators, but was talked down and left. Roberts previously tried to break into the Oregon State Capitol building and assaulted two reporters in 2020 when anti-COVID restriction protesters, including members of Patriot Prayer, rioted and had a brief standoff with police.
Another heckler at the counter-protest Saturday was neo-Nazi Eric Oelkers, who, other than being convicted on gun charges, celebrated abortion clinic bomber Eric Rudolph and posted threats to shoot antifascists. In video LCRW obtained, he’s filming with a group heckling counter-protesters while standing near a woman in a Washington State III% hoodie.
“Saturday was pretty much a repeat. The event attendees were a little more aggressive, verbally. Lots of “good christians” spitting curses at us as they drove by, lots of bad faith arguments from folks that approached us to tell us how not bigoted and racist they were,” Finch recounted. She said they were mostly calling people “ungodly” and “going to hell,” others saying that the indigenous and allied counter-protestors were the real racists and fascists.
“The older (obviously more conservative types,) would Thumbs Down” us as they drove by,” Finch said.” “Others would flip us off, and ask us why we hate America.”
There were also several people who drove by shouting “Let’s go, Brandon!” with the counter-protesters responding “Fuck Joe Biden!” or mocking them for not being able to “just curse like an adult.”
“THE AFTERPARTY” Feat. ERIC TRUMP
A social media post circulated online about an afterparty celebrating “Anglo American identity” on Friday. Around 7:50 p.m., White Rose of Salem posted on Twitter that Eric Trump was eating dinner with a group of white nationalist groypers at Gustavs/Bargarten Bavarian Social Haus located at the Keizer Station shopping mall.
In a since-deleted tweet a little over a half hour later, another Twitter user who goes by “aly q” posted that Trump had visited the restaurant where their sister worked. Responding to DSM’s query for information, they posted a since-deleted video that was archived.
The since-deleted video purports to show Trump sitting at a table across the restaurant.
A manager for the restaurant who wished to remain anonymous confirmed Trump’s presence the next morning. They also said that they, personally, were not aware of his presence for at least half-an-hour or the affiliations of the group of people he was with. The manager also stated that Trump left without incident despite contradicting reports.
“I HAD SNIPERS ON ROOFS”
“We had ANTIFA, we had black lives, we had natives there, but I had one breach and it was three teenage boys with skateboards,” Troy Vanscoter boasted to the congregation at the The River Church in Salem on Sunday.
Vanscoter’s Freudianly-named Axis Security NW was hired for ReAwaken and he was the event manager for the whole affair. The River Church was where the QAnon revival would have been held had they not opted for the bigger Volcanoes Stadium.
“You do not know the levels of security” Vancoster said through a crackling microphone that kept cutting out.
“We had long guns, I had snipers on roofs,” he said, before the pastor adjusted his mic.
“OK, I’ll hold it like a rapper,” Vanscoter said, pointing his elbow out and putting the mic to his cheek.
“My security staff was secret service, FBI, Keizer PD, Salem PD, Salem SWAT, uh, State Troopers,” he continued. “If it wasn’t for them, we’d have had a lot more ANTIFA, we’d have had a lot more, um, outside threat.”
Lew Wootan, the pastor, interrupted to urge everyone to write thank-you emails to Keizer PD while putting Chief John Teague’s business card up on the projector screen.
“Everything’s shut down in Portland. The police can’t do anything in Portland. They came here. This isn’t Portland Police. They stood up for the community,” Wootan said. Many of the attendees the Statesman Journal spoke to came from out of town, and even out of state, for ReAwaken.
“I also had two FBI guys that were with Keizer PD and were giving us all of the information they had from threats. “We estimated over 300 ANTIFA coming down from Portland,” Vanscoter said, adding “300—not including white supremacy, not including Black Lives Matters. We had the tribal ones there…we had on a daily threat of over 700 people coming in as a counter-protest.”
In reality, the counter-protest was about a tenth that size, most people either with local church groups and indigenous groups. Vanscoter said as an aside that “the tribals were actually the peacefulest ones there.”
“Fortunate enough, Keizer PD was on the ball…they had every intersection locked down. When all those people came up from ANTIFA they were followed out when they left ‘cause apparently it was dinner time and mom was calling the dinner bell and they had to go home,” he said. Some in the congregation laughed.
“When they left, when they got out of Keizer Station, Keizer PD went through and lit them all up and made it very clear to them that they were not welcome,” Vanscoter said to applause.
“I was swarmed by at least 7 officers just trying to get into my car,” Ramiro “RJ” Navarro, an Oregon house candidate who attended the counter-protest said on Twitter. Navarro wasn’t even stopped on his way out of the protest—he was followed to a Lowes and stopped while getting back into his car in the parking lot. He was on his way to volunteer with a JROTC group.
“There were multiple vehicles pulled over targeting community members who were leaving the “Land Back” demonstrations both on Friday and Saturday. Each of the traffic stops included 3-4 patrol vehicles,” another person replied.
“We were followed out of the parking lot by chuds (right-wingers) and KPD almost certainly took our plates. They certainly watched very closely when we went to our car,” Finch said.
But back at The River Church on Sunday, where congregants were applauding this behavior, Wootan interrupted Vanscoter again to urge people not to call the number on the police chief’s business card—just write emails. Vanscoter told the congregation he was hiring, then Wootan lead them in stretching out their hands and praying for Vancoster and “his family and his business.”
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.
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