Although police have yet to identify suspects or provide a motive for the “targeted attack” on North Carolina’s two energy substations over the weekend, one theory quickly took root on social media: The outages were meant to stop a drag performance.
After weeks of threats and hours-long protests by far-right activists against “Downtown Divas”, a drag show scheduled to take place at Sunrise Theater on Saturday night, the theory sprung up almost immediately. It was apparently buoyed by a mysterious post from an ardent opponent to drag performances.
Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields stated that a motive behind the attack, which initially plunged 45,000 people in darkness, is still unknown as both local authorities and FBI investigate. However, he did not rule out the possibility of a connection.
Fields stated Monday that they are currently looking at all options. Fields said Monday that there was nothing left on the table. All leads are being investigated. Federal and state law enforcement agencies have offered their cooperation and are helping us to investigate all leads.
Speculation continues in the interim.
A cryptic posting
Emily Rainey posted on her Facebook page, “The power is out at Moore County and I know the reason,” less than an hour after the electricity went off. Fields stated that a suspect or suspects drove up two Duke Energy substations, after breaking into one station’s gate, and opened fire. This caused a blackout that could have lasted through Thursday.
Rainey is a former U.S. Army psychologist operations officer who was being investigated for leading people from North Carolina to Washington on Jan 6, 2021. He has been vocal against drag shows in the state.
She wrote, “God will never be mocked” in a follow-up posting, with a photo of the Sunrise Theater.
Rainey didn’t respond to our request for comment.
The post was shared more than 200 times on Facebook and has generated almost 2,000 comments since its creation. Screenshots circulated on Twitter as well, where they provoked outrage. They also fueled speculation that the drag show, which Rainey had requested people to protest, and the power outage were related.
“I 100% believe this was motivated by anti LGBTQ animus,” stated Charlotte Clymer, a LGBTQ activist who shared Rainey’s initial tweet on Twitter and later wrote a blog articleabout the outage and it. Clymer stated that she quickly “put the dots together.”
Clymer stated that a Moore County friend reached out to her after the outage, and said they believed the outage was related to protests against the drag show. They informed her that the atmosphere was tense and gave her names of prominent opponents to the show, including Rainey.
Clymer, she stated, saw Rainey’s posts. She began to speak with Moore County residents.
“Everyone knew that this was happening in the community and the queer community was well aware of it.” She said that even attendees to the drag show felt this was anti-LGBTQ when the power went out.
She stated, “What is clear is that these substations had been destroyed by firearms and it just so happened that it was at the time that drag show would occur. And it just so happened that the person leading the protests against drag show quite literally implied it was because of the drag shows being protested and that violent action was taken to cancel it.” She said, “This is more than a coincidence.”
This speculation comes less than one month after a gunman opened fired on the LGBTQ-friendly Club Q in Colorado Springs , , killing five people , and injuring more then a dozen more. The motive for the shooting is still unknown.
In a terrorism advisory bulletin issued Nov. 30, the Department of Homeland Security raised concerns regarding potential threats to the LGBTQ, Jewish, and Migrant communities by violent extremists in this country. Recent attacks such as the attack on Club Q have inspired some extremists, according to the bulletin.
There are two layers to this story. Clymer stated that the first layer is the most important. This is because there has been an increase in anti LGBTQ violence and discrimination in the country all year, from state legislatures to federal Republican politicians to conservative groups who seem to tirelessly pursue LGBTQ people but specifically trans people.” They think drag queens of trans are the same thing. Drag queens have become a focal point for propaganda, which seems to suggest or seem to declare outrightly that they groom children or prey on them.
Protests have been triggered by “well-armed” groups such as the Proud Boys, who “show up at drag shows and that basically exercise a direct action to intimidate attendees.” Clymer stated that shows have been cancelled in large numbers.
Clymer’s theory was shared by others, who began to share her suspicions.
Rainey stated on her Facebook page that she was being questioned by law enforcement.
“Sorry, they wasted their time. I explained to them that God is mysterious and responsible for the outage. I also used this opportunity to tell them about the sinister drag show and the blasphemies shouted by its supporters.
Fields claimed Rainey’s social media posts were false at a news conference on Sunday. WRAL-TV reports that authorities spoke to Fields and found her posts not credible.
“I ask that citizens be patient and work as hard as they can to solve this problem. Fields stated Monday that the team is working around the clock to resolve this problem. He asked that citizens not assume any responsibility until they can report back to the public.
Jared Holt of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue is an expert on political extremism and cautioned against making too many conclusions.
He stated that “LGBTQ communities have more reason to fear they will be harassed, violent or worse in today’s social climate.” “But I am concerned about instilling fear in a community already on edge, when the facts are not clear. Although we draw all sorts of lines between dots and ultimately none of it is hard evidence, It’s circumstantial.”
Threats for the Week
According to the Fayetteville Observatory, the “Downtown Divas” drag show has been the subject of protests and criticism from far-right activists since weeks.
Naomi Dix, a Durham-based drag performer, hosted and produced the show. She claimed that she received death threats and backlash by right-wing Christian groups for hosting the show for several weeks. Dix claimed Rainey was also a part of the threats.
Sunrise Theater’s executive director Kevin Dietzel said that the theater was also targeted via social media and phone calls.
“It was mostly people inferring rather than stating anything on social networks. He said that there were a few calls where people used slurs and heavy breathing. He said that the majority of the negative reaction came from the fact that the event was advertised to be an all-ages event. So, the venue increased the age limit by 18.
He said, “For many that seemed to be enough, but we still had some plan to protest and some coming up to counter protest.”
According to the Fayetteville Journal, there were about 40 Rainey supporters who met 200 counter-protestors outside the theater on the day of Rainey’s show.
Dietzel stated that both the counter-protest and the protest were peaceful and that the police maintained control of the situation.
Dix stated that the power went out about an hour into the show, but she continued it for another 45 minutes by having audience members illuminate the theater with their cellphone lights. She decided to cancel the remainder of the show in order to “ensure everybody’s safety” during this outage.
Dix and Dietzel said that they can’t speculate on the connection between the power station attack and the show.
Dix stated that an investigation was underway and that he had no doubt that Moore County residents and the queer community would hold those responsible for the attack accountable.
Dix said that she would not be surprised if an attack was connected to the show.
It would not surprise me to learn that anything was designed or focused on creating problems for the queer community. Because we are so much more than a drag show, I won’t say anything specific about the drag show. We are a community of people and it wouldn’t surprise me if there was an attack on the queer community.