“Christ is King” was just one of the ominous messages left scrawled on the walls of the UpRising Bakery and Café in a suburb of Chicago, one night before it planned to hold an evening “Drag Brunch” event.
Lake in the Hills, Illinois, police arrested 24-year-old Joseph I. Collins for allegedly vandalizing the bakery Friday night. He’s accused of smashing several windows, breaking a door, and writing hateful slogans on the bakery’s walls, including ones that echoed far-right conspiracy theories labeling LGBTQ people “groomers.” Collins, who traveled to Lake in the Hills from his home in Alsip, 62 miles away, has since been charged with criminal damage to property and hate crimes, both felonies.
He was released late Saturday night on a $10,000 bond.
While it’s not clear whether Collins was affiliated with a particular extremist group, his use of the phrase “Christ is King” is notable. It’s been co-opted in the last year by white nationalist livestreamer Nick Fuentes and his followers, who call themselves “Groypers.” “Christ is King” has become these young white nationalists’ calling card and mantra, particularly as they try to build inroads into more-mainstream Christian communities.
The vandalism of the UpRising Bakery also signals an escalation in the monthslong far-right harassment campaign against drag and pro-LGBTQ family-friendly events around the country. In some places, threats have forced organizers to heighten security or even cancel their events. Elsewhere, far-right extremists have stormed “Drag queen story hour” or similar events at libraries and other businesses over baseless conspiracies that they’re hotbeds of child sex abuse.
These militant anti-LGBTQ protesters have been egged on by a steady stream of bigoted propaganda being pushed out by the likes of “Libs of TikTok” (which has nearly 60,000 followers on TikTok and a million followers on Twitter) as well as sitting members of Congress. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, for example, has said it would be “immoral and irresponsible” not to protest events like drag queen story hours.
The owner of UpRising Bakery told CBS Chicago that they’d received threats and harassment for weeks after announcing their “Starry Night Drag Brunch” event. Last week, a Proud Boy chapter from Illinois announced on Telegram that around 100 members from the far-right street-fighting gang (including from Indiana, Michigan, and Kentucky) were planning to protest the event at UpRising Bakery. “Calling all Patriots,” they wrote on Telegram. “Please come out to support those of us that are tired of watching people normalize abnormalities.”
The Proud Boys also said in their post that they were joining forces with a group called Awoke Illinois, which was formed in 2021 by parents who were upset about mask mandates in schools.
When local antifascist activists caught wind of these plans, they organized a counterprotest—which, in turn, was promoted by far-right pundits with large platforms, including Andy Ngo.
Despite these threats, the owner of the UpRising Bakery insisted that the Starry Night Drag Brunch would go on as planned. After the vandalism, she decided to cancel the event. By Sunday, they had reopened with limited services and staff.
“Hate has no home here,” they wrote in a post on Facebook. “We live here. This is our home. This is our town. This is our country. This is our fight. We’re not turning our backs or backing down now. Zero tolerance for fuckery today and every day.” Supportive customers were photographed lining up around the block to patronize the bakery.
UpRising Bakery wasn’t the only place to be targeted by the far-right recently.
In Boston, Chris Hood, the notorious leader of the neo-Nazi group NSC-131, was taken into custody after he and members of his group shouted anti-LGBTQ slogans and clashed with counterprotesters at “drag queen story hour” at a historic building. (Two antifascist protesters were also arrested.)
The far-right moral panic around drag events also seems to have made its way overseas. This past weekend, a group of sovereign citizens in Reading, United Kingdom, tried to enter a library to perform a citizen's arrest of a drag queen whom they called a “pedophile.”
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Update: A previous version of this story cited a Proud Boys disruption at an event in Indiana as occurring in July, when, in fact, it occurred in late June. The reference has been removed.