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The swelling crowd looms up and hits me psychically like a wave I couldn’t tell was too damn big.
“CHILD LIVES MATTER!”
“CHILD LIVES MATTER!
On every corner of Hollywood and Vine, the foam from an internet swell hisses in my ears. I can’t even hear their babble for the semi-coherent conspiracy theories they’re evangelizing. It’s just the wash of the crazy tide. It’s Ten in the fucking morning and it’s over 95 degrees out. There’s hundreds of people. They’re like a single amoebic life form bubbling and grasping everything they can around it. They ritualistically all cross from their street corners into the middle of the intersection when the lights turn red and parade around with all their banners and signs and flags.
“SAVE THE CHILDREN. DESTROY THE PREDATORS,” one sign reads. “#PIZZAGATE,” another reads.
They’re supporters of QAnon and its forbear Pizzagate–conspiracy theories that hold that the world is governed by a cabal of elites from Hollywood, Washington, Beijing, etc. These elites, QAnon believers think, run a global child trafficking ring and torture, abuse and ritualistically sacrifice children in order to drink their blood and live forever.
The movement’s prophet, “Q,” claims to be an intelligence official embedded in the Trump Administration. Trump, according to Q, is secretly working against the pedophilic cabal and has been for decades. QAnon believers think that the entire Democratic Party, Republicans who aren’t loyal to Trump, Hollywood elites, tech billionaires like Bill Gates, the Black Lives Matter movement, “Antifa” and every other kind of person a right-wing conspiracy theorist doesn’t like will all be rounded up and murdered by the U.S. military. They call this bloodletting “The Storm.” After this, there will be what Q calls “The Great Awakening,” where the elite’s secret technology like cancer cures and free energy will be made available to the public.
QAnon is an apocalyptic fantasy rooted in old blood libel myths. European Christians would murder Jews and make up an excuse that Jews were cooking children into their Matzah bread. By the industrial era there was the Protocols of the Elders of Zion–a hoax theory that a Jewish cabal was pulling the strings behind the major financial and political powers in Europe and plotting world domination. Hitler embraced this idea and said that communism was part of the Jewish plot.
After he blew his brains out in a bunker, it wasn’t so popular for racist conspiracy theorists to say the Jews were behind everything anymore. But it was very popular to say communists were plotting to destroy the U.S. and the ‘West.’ So groups like the John Birch Society formed to claim that everyone they didn’t like up to Dwight D. Eisenhower was a secret communist infiltrator out to ruin America for the reds. After the Cold War ended, communism became irrelevant and this kind of morphed into the ‘New World Order’ conspiracies popularized by Alex Jones. Now instead of Jews or communists, it was the “Globalists”–corporations, liberal elites, environmentalists, LGBTQ+ rights activists and Muslims all conspiring to destroy America and bring about a totalitarian “One World Government.” QAnon centralizes those beliefs and brings it right around to good old blood libel by claiming Hillary Clinton and half of Hollywood are ritualistically abusing children to make them produce a magic, life-extending substance they call “adrenochrome.”
One sign I saw put it bluntly. It said, “NO ADRENOCHROME FOR YOU.”
Many of the signs I saw during the rally were absolutely bloodthirsty. “DEATH PENALTY FOR PEDOPHILES,” one read. “#KILLALLPEDOPHILES,” another said. These people believe a deranged conspiracy and want to kill anyone they think is a pedophile whether they actually are or not. And some of them have killed and committed acts of terrorism already, while at least one QAnon believer died by suicide.
One QAnon believer murdered his brother with a sword because he believed he was a lizard-person. Another killed a mob boss. Yet another had a standoff with law enforcement on the Hoover Dam after he blocked the road with an armored vehicle. One prominent QAnon follower, actor Isaac Kappie, died by suicide and mentioned failing the “Q” movement in his suicide note.
I saw one sign that said “SETH GREEN IS A PEDOPHILE!..ASK ISAAC KAPPIE.”
Q followers often rewrite Kappie’s death, claiming he was assassinated because he knew too much about Hollywood’s satanic underbelly and was speaking out against it.
The QAnon movement grew exponentially during the COVID19 pandemic as people were forced to stay home and spend more time online. Mother Jones reports that post-pandemic viewings, searches and tweets of QAnon-related terms skyrocketed. For example, the QAnon hashtag on Twitter averaged about 27 thousand instances a day between April and September last year and shot up to about 69 thousand per day between April 7th to 13th this year. The Wikipedia page for adrenochrome got 40 times its average of pre-pandemic visits in a similar timeframe.
“It was around when quarantine started. I’ve had more time to do research–since we’re like, at home all day,” a teenage QAnon follower told me. I didn’t ask her name. Can you blame me?
“Pretty much right when the COVID lockdown started I was like ‘This all smells like bullshit.’ So I started doing some research, I heard about Q and from then on it was just kind of down the rabbit hole from there,” another QAnon follower told me. His sign said “#Pizzagate, #FrazzleDrip.”
“Frazzle Drip” is the name of a supposed deep web video of Hillary Clinton and her then-campaign aide Huma Abedin torturing and eating a child. I first heard about Frazzle Drip at a rally in Sacramento over a year ago when a nice old lady told me about it in graphic detail and then asked if I knew about Q.
It’s no coincidence that the pandemic has spawned its own conspiracies deeply tied to the QAnon movement. At the rally, people carried signs about the conspiracy theory that Bill Gates is using the coronavirus vaccine as an excuse to put microchips in people to control them. I saw one sign that said “SCAMDEMIC WON’T HIDE PEDOGATE.” Indeed, a lot of people weren’t wearing masks.
COVID denialism isn’t the only conspiracy theory to latch onto QAnon. The movement’s attracted everyone from UFO truthers to time travel-believers. QAnon, spreading mainly though social media like Facebook, has found a home with Evangelical Christians and new-age religious types as well as anti-vaxxers and alternative medicine subcultures. The conspiracy theory even recently found a home among Instagram influencers. Indeed, many of the people I saw on Saturday were young, attractive and talking to their online fanbases as they marched.
One disturbing element of the QAnon movement I saw was entryism by Boogaloo Boys. The Boogaloo movement is a younger rebrand of the Patriot/Militia Movement of the last few decades. Their public relations strategy is to claim to be libertarians hyper-focused on gun rights. In their private chats, Boogaloo Boys salivate about having the chance to wage war against police and federal law enforcement. Many extend their murderous fantasies to communists and other vaguely defined enemies–such as QAnon’s nebulous concept of pedophiles.
“Well, we (the Boogaloo Boys and QAnon followers) both agree that pedophiles are a virus on this earth,” a Boogaloo Boy told me.
“They should be dropped out of helicopters. Drop ‘em all out of helicopters into wood chippers. It’d be expensive but it’d be fun!” another Boogaloo Boy added.
“QAnon’s more about doxxing and about ruining their (pedophiles’) reputation. And, allegedly, we’re more about removing them,” the first Boogaloo Boy said. “Allegedly,” he added.
Dropping people out of helicopters was a tactic of the Pinochet regime. White nationalists for a time would worship Pinochet because it wasn’t a good look to praise Hitler in the open. I remember Identity Evropa at one Berkeley rally in 2017 chanting “Our guiding light, Lead the way: Pepe, Trump and Pinochet!” It didn’t take long for Pinochet-worship and “free helicopter rides” memes to trickle down into militia crowd, the MAGA crowd, the libertarians. I asked the Boogaloo Boys about far-right infiltration into the movement–something I’ve seen permeate their online spaces from the beginning.
“There is no far-right in the Boogaloo. The Boogaloo is a center-Libertarian–it’s neither right nor left. It is neither fascist nor authoritarian,” the first Boogaloo Boy I spoke to said. I pressed, explaining that fascists often try to creep into and hijack movements. I asked if he’d observed that in the Boogaloo Movement at all. He said no.
“We believe in the Non-Aggression Principle where if you don’t fuck with us, we don’t fuck with you,” he added.
The rally turned into a march around 10:30AM. I heard chants of the QAnon slogan ‘Where we go one, we go all!’
At one point they found the weekly Black Lives Matter rally that happens in Hollywood and started arguing with them. An organizer told people “That is BLM! Do not mix with that group! Stay with our group!” Some hung around on the corner waving a pro-cop Blue Lives Matter flag at them. I think the Black Lives Matter protest, which was about a hundred people from my guess, scattered and regrouped away from them.
At one point during the march a man started screaming on a bullhorn in this faux-tour guide bit, saying buildings along Hollywood Boulevard are actually part of some elaborate Freemason temple. He quoted Allister Crowley’s “every man and woman who joins the coven is a star” line and pointed at the Walk of Stars. He screamed about Annunaki–lizard people. Like the David Icke lizard people shit. A woman came down from the second floor of a building.
“I have a star (on the Walk of Stars.) I’m against pedophiles but you DON’T attack Hollywood!” she told me.
I tried to explain that QAnon is kind of a cult and she thought I was saying she’s in a cult at first. I think she eventually got what I was saying.
The march went over to Hollywood High. I think there were well over a thousand people. I heard something like glass smash in front of me on the concrete. I looked. It was a healing crystal. People posed for photos in front of Hollywood High.
I suppose at this point I should address the “Save Our Children” slogan. QAnon organizers thought up this ‘Save Our Children’ brand for these events to whitewash the conspiracy theory for the general public. QAnon might have a bad reputation as a crazy cult, but who doesn’t want to stop child trafficking?
“They are calling it different names as an attempt to evade the social media suspensions of major QAnon-supporting accounts, groups and sometimes hashtags. They haven’t been consistent, or constant. But it requires changing the search term and thus the label of the rallies. They’re also aware of the bad reputation the word “QAnon” has,” Julian Feeld, co-host of the QAnon Anonymous podcast, which covers the movement in-depth, told LCRW.
Feeld was there that day, but alas I didn’t run into him. QAnon Anonymous covered a previous ‘Save the Children’ rally in the same location a few weeks ago.
“It was an escalation, if modest, of the former similar rally in the same location. It suffered from two listed starting points, but together they summoned more attendants. There was also a much more religious tone to the organizers who stayed rooted in front of the Chinese Theatre,” Feeld told LCRW.
Feeld said there was a “strong mystical Christian faction, including a pastor with a small flock and most organizers expressing extremist Christian beliefs,” at the second location in front of Mann’s Chinese Theatre.
As I said earlier, QAnon is attracting a wide range of online communities from Instagram influencers to new age religion types to antivaxxers to every kind of conspiracy theorist imaginable. But moving offline, Feeld says, is taking the power away from the mostly online QAnon promoters like Praying Medic and Dustin Neimos.
“I think these events are creating grassroots momentum while also alienating most of the QAnon influencers, who are more comfortable with a movement they can monetize on social media, rather than see events being organized with no regards for the Q literati—which yields bad PR on top of it,” Feeld reflected.
The march paused in front of the Hollywood’s CNN building. One of the biggest targets of the movement’s ire is, of course, mainstream media. They chanted “Fuck CNN!” before returning to Hollywood and Vine. Some people wanted to go to the Netflix building a few blocks away. There was a recent scandal with Netflix because their advertising team made sexualized posters of young girls, ironically to promote a film examining the problem of sexualizing young girls in media.
When they’d returned to Hollywood and Vine, the crowd went back to their strange ritual of walking into the middle of the road at red lights and then going back to the corners to chant. The crowd was much bigger than at the start of the day. The rhetoric had also become less Q-focused and more vague. Less “Where we go one, we go all” chants and more “Save our Children!” chants. At one point I saw a bunch of bicycle cops come through. I thought they were going to scold the QAnon people about blocking traffic. Instead, they wheeled right past and went to police the Black Lives Matter rally.
As the crowd started to thin, I went over to the Black Lives Matter Rally. Some antifascists ID’d David Dempsey as one of the QAnon rally attendees. Dempsey’s been one of the most violent people at local Blue Lives Matter rallies in Tujunga. There weren’t any notable incidents of violence while I was there.
Throughout the QAnon rally, people were promoting a Trump rally at Beverly Gardens Park in Beverly Hills that afternoon. More than having to do with New Age or antivaxxers or COVID denialism, QAnon is at its core a pro-Trump movement. I saw as many Trump flags and hats as anything else that day.
The afternoon Trump rally got violent and many of the people there were at the QAnon rally earlier. Some had the same signs. Right-wingers used bear mace and clubs on Black Lives Matter counter-protestors. They shouted about how Black Lives Matter is a “Marxist plot.”
I think the thing to take away from all this is that like the broader pro-Trump movement, QAnon is an inherently violent belief system. Barely concealed behind the rhetoric about saving children and silly healing crystal shit are people baselessly labelling others as pedophiles and hoping for an apocalyptic day of bloodletting when all their enemies will be murdered. It’s not going to end well.