This article is running concurrently on Double-Sided Media. Click here to read on their site with additional photos.
This year, the far right launched an intensified effort across the United States to intimidate, attack, and ultimately stifle the LGTBQIA+ community. Family-friendly drag queen storytime events were some of the most frequent targets, with attacks in California, Iowa, Florida, Minnesota, and Arizona among other places.. On Oct. 31, a donut shop in Tulsa, Oklahoma was even firebombed with a Molotov cocktail.
Oregon is no different., in the early morning hours of Oct. 18, a Twitter account run by Chelly Bouferrache—using the handle @hunnybadgermom—posted a thread about the following weekend’s Drag Queen Story Time Brunch at Old Nick’s Pub in Eugene. It featured an 11-year-old performer, Vanellope MacPherson Dupont.
Within hours, right-wing propagandist Andy Ngô tweeted his own thread regarding “controversy [having] erupted” over the event. Ngô has a long and sordid history of producing propaganda for bigots. He’s currently on the anti-drag bandwagon, stoking the kind of hate that’s currently motivating right-wing terror across the country. Throughout the day, Old Nick’s Pub’s Facebook page for the event received hateful and queerphobic comments. They ranged from the typical complaints that the pub should lose their liquor license to the outlandish assertions that anyone interested—or performing—in drag is a pedophile. The pub also had to disconnect their phone due to incessant threats and harassment.
Much of the controversy surrounded Vanellope’s ex-”drag mom” Kelsey Boren, who is currently in jail on charges that relate to child sex abuse. Right-wing media insinuates the young performer must have been groomed.
At the same time, a plethora of right-wing news outlets began pushing out the same regurgitated story about the event, many citing Ngô’s thread. These included Blaze Media, DailyMail UK, Daily Caller, National File, The Daily Wire, and Ngô’s own The Post Millennial.
_FOX News _covered it that night, too, with a discussion between host Jesse Watters and a drag queen named Kitty Demure, a member of Gays Against Groomers.
Another well known far-right aligned Twitter account, “Libs of Tik Tok”—run by former Brooklyn real estate agent Chaya Raichik—retweeted the original thread by @hunnybadgermom. Raichik’s account regularly incites harassment against queer people, usually targeting queer teachers, drag events, and trans healthcare. Her incitement led to a bomb threat against Boston Children’s Hospital.
Many of Raichik and Ngô’s followers’ tweets either directly, or indirectly, referenced the potential for violence. Some insinuated that a mass murder should occur.
The same day, Oct. 18, Old Nick’s Pub released a statement on their Facebook page. They reaffirmed their support of Vanellope and explained that it “is not an inherently sexual act to dress in drag, and those sexualizing [Vanellope] are falling into a very typical societal trap of misogyny that views any female performance as sexual.”
Later that night, around 11:30 p.m., Richard Elce—a well-known violent right-wing agitator with ties to a militia group called The American Patriots Society, or “TAPS”—showed up to the pub. He circled it several times in his car, got out and harassed patrons. He eventually ran off when confronted by one of the pub’s owners. Before this, Elce posted a Facebook comment saying he planned to show up to the drag event on Oct. 23.
After returning home, he commented on a Facebook post by Audra Price, a Proud Boys affiliate who dated a Nazi and works with a far-right group called “Cops NW.” Elce said he’d been to the bar and guessed there would be “a lot of security.” Another person replied that “we need security of our own. This looks like a job for the Proud Boys.” Price replied “Already taken care of.”
The next day, Oct. 19, Old Nick’s Pub posted on Facebook, thanking the Eugene Police Department for “their steadfast support through all of this” and “the reassurance they will not allow any of our patrons or performers to be harmed by [those coming to protest].”
The same day, Matt Walsh—a self-described “theocratic fascist” pundit who thinks 16 year old girls should get married and pregnant—published his take on the situation on his YouTube channel. In the video, Walsh likened Vanellope having a drag mom to “a sort of pedophillac [sic] predatory farm system” where the “drag child is handed over to the drag mom to be groomed and conditioned.” He described what was happening as “progressivism” and compared that to cancer.
How does Walsh propose the “progressive cancer” be cured? He says that “the farther along the cancer is the more aggressive you have to be in fighting it.” That includes the criminalization of children being involved in drag events. But, he says, “we don’t have to wait for lawmakers to get their act together,” and encouraged his listeners to publicly shame those involved.
On Oct. 20, Old Nick’s put out a formal statement by Vanellope’s family on their Facebook page. The statement said, in part, that Vanellope had been doxxed online and had been unable to attend her school the week of the event. The statement also, directly, responded to the far-right’s accusations of sexual exploitation by Vanellope’s former drag mom, Kelsey Boren, who is currently held in Lane County Jail on charges that relate to child sex abuse.
“Regarding the “relationship” between Vanellope and a woman known as Kelsy Meta-Boren, there in fact was no relationship beyond a professional one,” the statement said. “Meta-Boren only interacted with V a total of maybe 4 or 5 times in professional settings for venues and charity events.” Additionally, the statement said that their contact had ceased pre-COVID-19.
“Due to the lack of interactions between them, V is not a victim of Meta-Boren,” the statement explained. “There was never any ‘grooming’ or even mentorship between Meta-Boren and V.”
Vanellope’s start in drag and future aspirations as a young performer were also brought to light.
“At the age of 7, she asked her aunt if she could participate,” the statement read. “Sunshine, who is her real drag mother and mentor, said yes as she wanted to support her niece and let her express herself.”
DSM spoke to Vanellope’s drag mother, Sunshine Ray MacPherson, who was among the other scheduled performers at the event. She said she had previously, in an emotional and stressed state, done an interview with Andy Ngô without knowing who he was or what his background entailed.
MacPherson, a “drag entertainer, ‘Bio Queen’ or ‘Faux Queen,’” as she described herself, has been performing for 13 years. Vanellope has been performing for around four years, “most of that time during [the COVID-19 pandemic with] nowhere to perform,” she said. “In Vanellope’s everyday life, I am ‘Auntie’ and I have been a friend of the family since before she was born.”
She spoke openly about the allegations against Vanellope’s ex-drag mom Kelsey Boren. “Kelsey [Boren] made some HUGE HORRIFIC [their emphasis] choices and she is paying the consequences,” MacPherson said. “We are not in contact and haven’t been since pre-COVID.”
MacPherson said that “Kelsey was only her ‘Drag Mother’ in the context that she was the first one to ‘paint’ (put on makeup) Vanellope.” She added that “[Boren] painted Vanellope a total of 3 times and every time was with me or her mother,” adding that “Kelsey did attend a few shows that Vanellope was requested to perform at.”
THE FASCISTS HAVE LANDED
The night prior to Drag Queen Story Time and the bigoted counter-demo, several far-right agitators harassed the business. One took photographs of the building’s exterior and yelled at employees about the drag show, calling them all pedophiles.
The morning of the event, supporters began gathering in the parking lot and in front of Old Nick’s Pub by 9:30 a.m., well ahead of the posted 11 a.m. start time for the anti-drag protest. The crowd began with approximately 75 people and grew to over 200, including at least a dozen legal observers from the National Lawyers Guild. There was also a handy table loaded with hot coffee, tea, snacks, and handouts.
The protesters—Proud Boys and other MAGA and Q-loving extremists—arrived around 10 a.m—earlier than planned.
Almost as soon as the group of about 20 showed up, one man began to walk back and forth in the street and shout at the crowd in front of the pub. This man ended up getting into an altercation when he tried to pull down a banner supporters were holding. He then punched a woman through the sign, ripping it, before hurrying onto 2nd Ave. There, he was sprayed in the eyes with something before he could start a fight. An antifascist present believed it was OC spray.
Others helped this man wash it out and he resumed his loud transphobic rants. On “Black Conservative Preacher” aka Quincy Franklin’s livestream, the man continued his tirade, more privately, to an antifascist supporter, and said that he didn’t have an issue with gay and lesbian people. However, he has two kids and his daughter had been “made to understand from the principal” that someone is a lesbian.
Around 10:15 a.m. there was an altercation with a right-wing motorist. He was stopped after attempting to drive through the street while antifascists were rerouting traffic.
Meanwhile, the queerphobic side of the street got more crowded and, at its peak, reached about 70 people — including some local politicians.
Notably present was David Loveall, who, at the time, had just won his primary for a seat on the Lane County Board of Commissioners. Loveall became controversial after he carried an AR-15-pattern rifle during a protest for George Floyd on June 6, 2020.
Solidarity News’s Mathew O-G was present when Loveall and drag supporters had a conversation in the middle of the road.
According to Solidarity News, Loveall claimed he was “trying to get both sides.”
“There is a religious side here and people that are protesting about some child issues they don’t agree with,” Loveall said, adding “and there is some people over here protecting their rights as people that support what’s going on.”
Loveall sent The Torch and Eugene Weekly a statement refuting that he was with the far-right protesters after both outlets cited DSM’s on-the-ground reporting of his presence there:
“As a representative of the \[c\]ounty, I went to the protest briefly from 11 am to 11:30 am, hopefully to learn, listen and have some dialogue with both sides to better understand the issue. I was greeted coolly and aggressively by those defending the position of the drag show when I asked to hear their concerns and subsequently escorted off that side of the street by a handful of masked patrons. I then walked 50 yards to the south and observed the event for another 15 minutes, never carrying a sign, not having any exchange of words concerning a position, nothing to indicate my ‘side’ or feeling about the matter in any way.”
Loveall’s usage of the word “patrons” is misleading. Those inside the pub for the event had to pre-purchase their ticket and it was limited to 50 seats. Those outside were holding space and supporting those performing and watching inside.
Misty Fox, who also ran for Lane County Commissioner, attended in support of the protesting “patriots.” She campaigned as a liberty and freedom candidate, “against all mandates,” who wants to make Oregon “safe, free, and productive again.” Fox only received 7.5% of the votes last May, losing to Ryan Ceniga and Dawn Lesley in the primary. Ceniga won during the General Election.
Audra Price brought along a few of her other friends, too, including Julie Turcol, Cindy Loren, Dixie Bailey, Carrie Grant, Richard Elce, David Willis, Quincy Franklin a.k.a Black Conservative Preacher, and Proud Boys Barry Johnson Jr, Bryan Costa, Dustin Grant, and Troy Nichols. Quincy Franklin livestreamed the protest and solicited donations for his stream.
More Proud Boys—notably not in their usual black-and-yellow colors—were identified by Eugene Antifa. They include Joseph Lester, Jackie Vicari, Richard Wynn, Eric Rogers, Scott Gourley, Vince Burroughs, Brent Goodrich, Kyle Hasey, and Eddie Orton — many of which are from the McKenzie River chapter.
Around 11:15 a.m., actual Nazis arrived. Rose City Nationalists, a neo-Nazi group, stood around seig-heiling.
There were also politicians within the crowd supporting Old Nick’s Pub and their storytime event.
Eugene City Councilwoman Emily Semple was in attendance for several hours in support of Old Nick’s and the drag community, as was Springfield City Councilman Leonard Stoehr.
Just after 11 a.m., Emma Scott Lavin a.k.a. We Are Belov3d, a local artist and performer, arrived and went towards the protesters. With a few of them, she spoke passionately about her childhood and life as a trans woman. Much of it was only met with the same phrase over-and-over again: “but you’re a man!”
Yet she persisted. And she spoke loud and clear about the hypocrisy of their “Christian” beliefs:
“Let me ask you this, are our children mature enough to go into a church where they teach them that there’s going to be a rapture, and they live in fear that their parents, every time their parents disappear they think their parents have been raptured and they live in terror,” she asked. “They live in terror. If you go to ex-christian on Reddit there are hundreds of thousands of people saying that they have been abused by the church, they have been twisted inside out.”
About a half hour later, there were speeches behind Old Nick’s Pub in the parking lot. There, a smaller crowd of roughly thirty people listened intently as individuals gave impromptu and impassioned speeches about the reason for the day’s actions.
One speaker implored the crowd to remember that they were there to support Vanellope and to stand up to hate. The speeches ended with a short prayer offered by a local indigenous woman. She reminded the crowd that the community has stood up to this type of hate before, successfully running out the Volksfront-affiliated Laskey Brothers. She said that their efforts were about creating safe places for inclusion right where it’s needed, in the community.
“I want it to be safe there for me, for my family,” the woman said. “But remember, they’re [referring to the right-wingers] not the only ones who have roots in this former sun-down state. We are generations deep.”
The speakers thanked everyone for coming out and encouraged people to support Vanellope by buying stickers that read “I Stand With Vanellope.”
This was around the time that Marcus Edwards, a well-known local christofascist with close ties to white supremacist Corey Eugene Wyatt, arrived and began his usual “preaching” to the crowd. He didn’t stay long, though, and left with a small crowd of people.
INSIDE THE WALLS
At 12 p.m., the Drag Queen Story Time began inside the pub.
Due to the security issues, Old Nick’s had patrons pre-order their tickets and limited the audience to roughly fifty people. Entry into the pub was limited to the patio and guarded by no less than four or five armed security guards that were hired for the event.
Inside, all the seats available were filled with families and kids eating and eagerly waiting for the show to begin. People sat comfortably inside, seemingly completely unaware of the action taking place outside.
Maliena Bitchcock, the event’s host, rose to the stage and quickly introduced one of the pub’s co-owners, Emily Chappell. They said that Old Nick’s has been supporting the Drag community for over a year now. With the recent threats and ongoing protests against the Drag Queen Story Time, Maliena said, “they could have turned away, tucked their tails and run, but they didn’t.”
Chappell gave a short announcement, providing information about the show and safety plans in the case of an emergency. She especially thanked everyone who showed up and responded to the threats and harassment. Chappell was steadfast in her intentions of standing up to hate and continuing to host the event.
The Eugene Police Department did, initially, respond to the threats and provided two Guardian Trailer units for “surveillance.” However, on Sunday, they stationed themselves on the overpass and on roofs of nearby buildings, away from the bar. From their perches, they watched and recorded the proceedings without intervening much.
But the bar also decided to hire Guardian Security & Protection Services for the event. They checked for weapons with metal-detecting wands and conducted bag and body searches.
After the brief announcements, Chappell introduced the Drag Queen Story Time to cheers from the audience.
Maliena went on to thank Chappell for hosting and told the audience what to expect at Drag Queen Story Time: “good energy, drag queens, stories.” She said “to just have fun.”
Before starting the show, she had to acknowledge “the fly in the room, nail on the head, the elephant in the room, Vanellope.”
“Stand up and give her some love. She’s here, she’s beautiful, and she’s showing these people that you can’t keep her down,” Maliena said. “Your support is going to overshadow any of that hate out there.”
“It’s family friendly and nothing but love. Truth is, there is probably something wrong with [the far-right protesters outside] and they should see a therapist,” Maliena said.
With that, Maliena began the show with her rendition of “Perfect” by P!nk. Family friendly, upbeat, and empowering performances were given by Maliena, Sunshine Ray MacPherson, and Elektra Starr. Vanellope did not perform but read one book to the audience and sat on a couch, in front of the stage in a seat reserved especially for her, for the rest of the show.
Maliena Bitchcock, the host of the event, spoke with DSM and explained that the all-ages event was still relatively new and that the next event, in November, will be the third time it’s happened.
Bitchcock was also very thankful for the pub’s owner, Emily Chappell, and the support they’ve received from her and the pub.
“Old Nick’s is amazing [and] truly [treats] me and all my [performers] like family,” they said. “Emily didn’t even hesitate [once] threats [started] coming in. She hired security and started a safety plan to make sure we all stay safe.”
Around 12:30, the fascists began to retreat from Old Nick’s. First were the Rose City Nationalists, while Proud Boys and others held back the crowd of over 200 Drag Queen Story Time supporters following them down the road. Proud Boy Troy Nichols maced people as he drove by in a truck while Richard Elce was hit with at least a couple of water bottles during his retreat.
They didn’t leave without a “fight,” though.
As they retreated, an anti-drag demonstrator threw a paint grenade at the crowd. The paint grenade was manufactured by airsoft company Enola Gaye. McKenzie River Proud Boys leader Jeffrey Mustin haphazardly deployed what appeared to be either OC spray or bear mace manufactured by UDAP Industries, Inc. behind him as he ran in the opposite direction. Beside him, another McKenzie River Proud Boy, Jonathan Donovan, sprayed the crowd with what appear to be yellow Valken Tango .68 Caliber paintballs. One hit DSM photographer Robert Scherle straight in the forehead.
Once pushed past the intersection of Washington St. and 1st Ave., the dueling crowds started playing volleyball—with a smoke grenade canister. At least one EG18 High Output Smoke Grenade manufactured by Enola Gaye was thrown towards the pro-drag crowd, and then returned back and forth over and over like a game of volleyball.
In response to the smoke grenades and canisters, some members of the crowd pushing the bigots out began throwing rocks — some of which clearly hit their targets in Black Conservative Preacher’s livestream. On that same stream, you can hear other fascists saying “no, Barry , Barry no!” as Barry Johnson Jr. began to pick up rocks and throw them back.
One man, who wasn’t leaving, was pushed down by protesters defending the pub. Lying on the ground, he was soon encircled by EPD officers in riot gear.
The bigots’ disorganization was also apparent on that livestream. While retreating to their vehicles, individuals could be heard trying to figure out how they’re going to get out. Unfortunately, one of them dropped their walkie-talkie which was picked up by a pro-drag activist.
Once the bigots were in their vehicles, the drag event’s defenders positioned themselves at another intersection, behind the pub, in case the anti-drag crowd were to come around the other side. They didn’t.
A half hour-or-so later, there was a straggler: Creswell’s Julie Bivens, who helped organize the non-permitted Fourth of July parade there in 2021 with Proud Boy Chris Tough who, at the time, lived in Cottage Grove.
Driving her Chrysler Town & Country with a large syringe affixed on top and anti-vaxx propaganda plastered in the windows, Bivens drove past the crowd in front of the pub and was hit with several rocks. She then drove to the 105 overpass, parked, and spoke with EPD officers.
Things outside the pub really eased down after that. Those that had come to defend the Drag Queen Story Time slowly left. That fascists hadn’t come back — yet.
THE BRIEF RETURN
The Drag Queen Story Time event inside was never interrupted and it ended at its scheduled time. Those inside—the families, children, and performers—had no idea what was going on just outside the pub’s exterior walls.
As the afternoon went on, many of those that had gathered outside left. Several stayed in case the anti-drag protesters came back.
Around 5 p.m. a black Toyota FJ Cruiser pulled up to the sidewalk in front of the pub. Three people got out—Audra Price, Richard Elce, and McKenzie River Proud Boys leader Jeffrey Mustin.The driver, Vincent Burroughs, and Cindy Loren stayed in the vehicle. They were quickly repelled by those that had stayed outside, including the Rogue Valley Pepper Shakers, and pub staff.
Five days later, on Oct. 28, the pub hosted their monthly Fetish Night which, naturally, had also received threats. By this time, EPD had removed the Guardian Trailer units. The pub’s phone had been reconnected, only to be disconnected, again because of a flurry of threats. Because it was Halloween weekend, the event also featured a costume contest.
One man wearing a white bodysuit covering his entire head and face, and a Passport-branded beanie—was pointed out as suspicious. He was confronted by Chappell who asked him why he was present. According to her, he said he was “neutral” to the event and just came to check it out and see if it was something he was interested in. Chappell made it clear that anyone “neutral” to far-right extremists and the threats the pub had received had no business being in the space. The man, while protesting that he should receive his cover-charge back, left the space.
Mary Bell (she/her) is Managing Editor at Double-Sided Media.
LCRW will ALWAYS publish ALL of our content free-of-charge for the public good. Our work is supported by readers like you!!
I'm a broke journalist and run this outlet mostly out-of-pocket. I would love nothing more than to be able to dedicate 100% of my time to doing this coverage.
Support for LCRW has allowed me to travel to report, make ends meet every month, and even buy gear and software licenses for my work. I can't thank the folks who donate enough.