A cabal of culture warriors from the Los Angeles area have spent the past few years organizing pro-Trump rallies, storming businesses over mask requirements, and terrorizing schools.
This week, they were joined by a ragtag group of far-right extremists, conspiracy theorists, and Christian nationalists outside Disney’s headquarters in Burbank to air their latest grievance: grooming children.
The Disney corporation has been accused of supporting grooming children ever since it withdrew its support for Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. The law, which has inspired similar legislation elsewhere, bans teachers from teaching kids up to age 12 anything about sexual orientation or gender identity. In just the past week, the Disney grooming conspiracy has rapidly morphed into wild claims that the corporation is on a covert mission to indoctrinate children with a satanic agenda or is a front for a secret pedophilia ring.
Wednesday’s rally was organized by Sean Feucht, one of the “patriot pastors” who has risen to national prominence in recent years amid a surge of Christian nationalism within the GOP. Feucht and his ilk view culture war issues—election conspiracies, vaccines, critical race theory, LGBTQ rights—as primordial battles between good and evil that not only offend Christianity but also threaten what it means to be American.
The Disney controversy couldn’t have come at a better time for the far-right, which has lately found itself rudderless and in need of a new cause du jour. Anger over mask mandates and vaccines, which brought disparate elements of the far-right under one banner, has dissipated now that COVID restrictions have been rolled back.
The vast array of conspiracies against Disney have recently shown up everywhere from the social media feeds of Donald Trump Jr. and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to anonymous forums and far-right Telegram channels. The far-right has latched onto the debacle—as well as a recent slew of state bills and laws targeting the LGBTQ community—as an excuse to traffic in tired transphobic and homophobic slurs, bashing gay and trans people as sex predators or pedophiles. On one pro-Trump forum, users have made threats against teachers , especially LGBTQ teachers, saying “Hang them all” and “Groomers get the rope.”
Livestreamers outside Disney HQ on Wednesday revealed a sizable crowd gathered around a stage that Feucht and his band were performing on. Some carried signs saying “Disney: Stop Mousing Around With Our Kids” and “Boycott Disney and Their Attack On Our Kids: It’s a Satanic Agenda.” Others flew the yellow Gadsden “Don’t Tread On Me” flag and held “Let’s Go Brandon” signs. They yelled through the gates, “Stop the perversion of our children.”
“They’ve been putting weird stuff in their movies for a long time, but now they’re actively fighting for children to be sexually indoctrinated as a kindergartner,” Feucht told the crowd.
Rob McCoy, a pastor affiliated with the right-wing student network Turning Point USA, likened their fight against Disney to the biblical story of David and Goliath.
“Goliath, just like Disney, is the gnat on the butt of an elephant, and you’re going down,” McCoy told the crowd. “You mess with our kids, you’re goin’ down.”
Self-described anti-fascist videographer Vishal Singh, who has documented much of the political violence in recent years in the LA area, identified some notable extremists present at the protest in a thread on Twitter.
Shiva Bagheri, a notorious far-right activist who has claimed she’s on a God-given mission to organize against COVID-19 vaccines and mask mandates. She’s harangued parents in front of their kids after school, accusing them of “traumatizing” and “poisoning” them by vaccinating them or abiding by mask requirements. She hit a breast cancer patient who challenged her during an anti-vax demonstration outside a cancer treatment clinic.
Far-right activist Tomas Morales, who pals around with the likes of Nicholas Fuentes and his “groyper” army, attended and put together a slickly produced video of the event. Right-wing livestreamer Kennedy Lindsey, who was identified by online “sedition hunters” as being among those who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, was also present.
Ryan Sanchez, a former member of the now-defunct white supremacist street fighting-gang Rise Above Movement. Sanchez promoted the rally on Telegram and announced he was planning to go, but it’s unclear if he showed up.
Feucht, along with others present, had a T-shirt on saying “Hold the Line,” the name of his organization that he says intends to encourage millennials to engage in politics. Feucht, who worked as a pastor at a megachurch in Redding, California, built up political cachet when he led the “Let Us Worship” movement, which demanded to keep churches open during the pandemic. Hold the Line, in addition to being a karaoke classic by Toto, has also become a rallying cry in the past few years—it was chanted by far-right Trump supporters as they stormed the Capitol, and used as a hashtag to encourage anti-vaccine activism.