A week’s worth of gun violence seems to have whetted the radical right’s eliminationist appetite—and much of it appears, once again, to be directed at the LGBTQ community:
- In El Paso, Texas, after far-right trolls spread the bogus claim that a transgender person was the shooter in Tuesday’s massacre in Uvalde, thugs verbally and physically assaulted a transgender girl, calling her a “mental health freak.”
- Further north in Arlington, a local pastor this week denounced the city’s support for its annual Pride events, claiming the Bible calls “homosexuals” criminals who should be put to death.
- In Arizona, far-right troll Ethan Schmidt-Crockett posted videos in which he threatened to attack Pride displays at Target stores (as he’s done previously), and then filmed himself harassing workers at a JoAnn Fabrics store for their Pride display.
The mood at far-right chat rooms has grown more openly violent as well, particularly as white nationalists have embraced the Buffalo shooter and his eliminationist “replacement theory” motives—and the threatening rhetoric around Pride events such as the one planned in northern Idaho in June has sharpened. As this recent study warned, the previous year’s relative calm in terms of far-right violence is manifestly over.
Although the viciously bogus claim that the Uvalde shooter was transgender was quickly debunked, and several of its more prominent spreaders—such as Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar—deleted their tweets making the claim, it continued to spread anyway on social media, enjoying a robust zombie half-life as the trolls spreading it made plain that they didn’t care if it was a lie: They just wanted to scapegoat transgender people.
Moreover, its most prominent spreader—race troll Candace Owens—not only refused to delete the earlier tweets, but doubled down to her 3 million-plus Twitter followers:
FYI: The media still has not debunked the photo of the Texas shooter wearing female clothes (to which I was referring.)
Instead they are trying to conflate it with the obvious internet hoax photos featuring a guy in a skirt in front of a trans flag.
No such photos exist, of course. The person she’s describing wearing female clothes in the widely circulated photos identified herself and denounced the hoax.
This didn’t stop the inevitable result of this kind of eliminationist rhetoric, either, whose entire purpose is to create permission for brutal violence directed at the rhetoric’s targets. In El Paso, it clearly inspired the men outside the city library, who first verbally and then physically assaulted a 17-year-old transgender girl named Tracey as she exited at the end of a night doing homework.
“Oh look, it has a dick,” said one of them. He then grabbed her arm and forced her to look at him as he said: “Yeah, you know they’re perverting kids instead of killing them.”
“I’m only 17!” she answered.
Another man sneered: “Yeah, you know it was one of your sisters who killed those kids. You’re a mental health freak!”
Tracey was able to escape on her bicycle. El Paso Police refused to take an assault report. She also is no longer able to talk to her counselor at a community clinic, after it shut its doors to trans teens when Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton made a legal finding that supporting transition is child abuse.
Meanwhile, in Arlington earlier this week, the pastor of a nearby Baptist church—one that has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)—denounced the city’s upcoming Pride events at a city council meeting, calling it an “abomination”:
I don’t understand why we celebrate what used to be a crime not long ago. In fact, Texas Penal Code, in Section 21.06, homosexual conduct, a person commits an offense if he engages in deviant sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex. In fact, that is still on the books today, even though Lawrence vs. Texas overruled that in 2003. But God has already ruled that murder, adultery, witchcraft, bestiality, and homosexuality are crimes worthy of capital punishment.
The pastor, Jonathan Shelley, is from Stedfast Baptist Church in nearby Hurst. The SPLC designated Stedfast Baptist an anti-LGBTQ hate group in 2021, based largely on Shelley’s incendiary rhetoric. The church recently was evicted from its building in Hurst because Shelley’s violent rhetoric violated his lease, and the owner refused to tolerate it.
In his sermons, Shelley has frequently called for death to members of the LGBTQ community, but he claims he’s not calling for vigilante killings—he only wants it done officially, at the hands of the state. In one sermon, he celebrated the death of a 75-year-old gay man in Wilton Manors, Florida, after a vehicle accidentally ran him over during a Pride event: “And, you know, it’s great when trucks accidentally go through those, you know, parades,” he said. “I think only one person died. So hopefully we can hope for more in the future.”
“You say, ‘Well, that’s mean.’ Yeah, but the Bible says that they’re worthy of death!” he continued. “They say, ‘Are you sad when fags die?’ No. I think it’s great! I hope they all die! I would love it if every fag would die right now.”
“And you say, ‘Well, I don’t think that’s what you really mean.’ That’s exactly what I mean. I really mean it!”
The same kind of vicious hatred also clearly animates Schmidt-Crockett in his Arizona jihad against commercial Pride displays. A longtime antimasking/anti-LGBTQ activist and troll who has a large following on Telegram, where he posts his deliberately provocative videos, Schmidt-Crockett this week has launched into making threats against stores that carry Pride celebration materials and displays—particularly Target, where he previously filmed himself taking down a Pride display, calling it “disgusting … it’s devil worship.”
He’s also posted videos and texts saying he’s “going hunting for LGBT pedophiles” and “non binaries,” saying ominously: “We’re hunting for you.” He also recently turned up as part of a white-nationalist “Groyper” contingent acting as violent counter-protesters at a Phoenix abortion rights protest.
This week, Schmidt-Crockett became primarily focused on stores with Pride displays. He first posted a video of himself threatening to harass Target stores in Arizona, claiming they were erecting “satanic pride shrines to children” in their stores, and claiming he and “my buddy Kyle” would be “exposing all the employees that support it.”
“We’re going to make massive scenes in every single Target store across Phoenix, Arizona, and we’re not going to let corporate poison the children,” Schmidt vowed in the video, posted on Twitter by Patriot Takes.
Schmidt told Target officials to “just perma-ban” him, because he intended to step up his confrontations to an entirely new level for Pride Month in June.
“So Target, just giving you a heads up, that we’ll be coming after you hard. Hard,” Schmidt promised. “You know, I’ve already exposed you guys pretty good, but this is going to be next-level stuff.”
He added: "If you support the LGBT agenda, you're not safe."
Phoenix police posted a vague tweet about the situation that seemed to create even more confusion: “We are aware of a video on social media that names a retail store. We are looking into this. Statements in the video may be concerning to members of our community. The store and it's security team are also aware of the video.”
On Thursday, Schmidt-Crockett posted a video of himself (again nabbed by Patriot Takes) entering a JoAnn Fabrics store and harassing its staff over the Pride materials on sale there. Muttering to his audience that the materials somehow promoted pedophilia, he began haranguing the clerk who answered his summons: “Does JoAnn Fabrics support pedophilia?” He describes his disgust after the clerk goes to summon security: “Pedophilia, I’m sick of it everywhere. Every single corporate store has been taken over by the agenda.”
As he departs, he points his finger at the clerk: “Pedophiles!” he says. “You guys support the LGBT agenda! You guys support pedophilia! JoAnn Fabrics supports pedophilia!”
The shift to a focus targeting the LGBTQ community with eliminationist rhetoric and then violence is the result of several long-term trends on the radical right, particularly as its street-level strategies have shifted after the Jan. 6 insurrection. A recent study by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) warns of a looming likelihood that far-right organizing will revolve around LGBTQ events and political rallies in the near future:
As an election year with midterms as well as a number of key gubernatorial races, 2022 is likely to see a rise in organizing focused on the upcoming votes. There have already been examples of protests involving ‘Freedom Convoys’ expressing support for Trump and including voter registration opportunities at events, signaling the start of this evolution.
In addition to election-related mobilization, there may also be a resurgence of other recent drivers as well. With Republican officials launching a new anti-LGBT+ legislative push around the country, mobilization against LGBT+ rights may increase, even though coordinated organizing on this issue has not been a major feature of the political violence and protest landscape in which far-right militias and MSMs have engaged in recent years. Broader activity on the right is currently coalescing around the reinvigorated anti-LGBT+ legislative campaign, in addition to organizing against institutions and companies seen as ‘too supportive’ of LGBT+ rights.