Featured photo: Proud Boys attended a private drag event in Winston-Salem at Radar Brewing on June 10. (photo by James Douglas)

Attendees at a private drag event hosted at a Radar Brewery on Saturday were subject to harassment by Proud Boys who traveled from as far away as Wilmington. 

As the doors to the event opened at 11 a.m., about a dozen men dressed in various states of tactical military gear, wearing masks and sporting the signature Proud Boy colors of black and yellow, appeared and “multiplied quickly,” according to a vendor who was at the event. Visitors arriving for the event were then subjected to verbal abuse by the group from the roadside as they entered the brewery.

The “Yacht House Party” at Radar on Saturday was hosted by popular local drag performers Anna Yacht and CC Labrie. As the event began members of the Proud Boys were as close as legally permissible, shouting “groomers” and “pedophiles” at the various attendees who were walking or driving up to the event. Some protestors waved large signs that had messages like “18 Plus Gets Rid of Us” while another read “ Groom Dogs Not Kids.” 

A Cape Fear chapter delegate waved a large flag that displayed the Grim Reaper holding a scythe. The captions above and below the image read “Cape Fear Proud Boys” followed by “We Are Everywhere.” 

Due to the harassment, most attendees to the event remained inside and avoided the patio. If anyone ventured outside to the patio or nearby food truck, the protesters moved closer in an attempt to provoke and intimidate them. A few attendees videotaped the incident and argued with the Proud Boy members. Most people who attempted to confront and engage with the Proud Boys were usually solitary and immediately outnumbered and shouted down. 

The Southern Poverty Law Center has characterized the Proud Boys as a hate group and the Anti-Defamation League has described the Proud Boys as “extremist conservative” and “alt lite”, “overtly Islamophobic and misogynistic”, “transphobic and anti-immigration”, “all too willing to embrace racists, antisemites and bigots of all kinds.” A Proud Boys flyer posted on a telephone pole beside Radar described the group’s rejection of “modern principles” and a goal of maintaining “traditional western values.”

Charles Donohoe, former leader of the local Triad area chapter of the Proud Boys attended the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol and was later arrested for his part in the attempted coup. Donohoe pled guilty to lesser counts and avoided a charge of Seditious Conspiracy in exchange for his cooperation with prosecutors. 

The protest

According to posts on Telegram, delegates from the Northwest, Catawba Valley, Eastside and Cape Fear chapters were sent to protest the drag event, which  they called a “blatantly advertised grooming event.” Of these four chapters, only 14 representatives were present for the protest. 

At 5:24 a.m. Saturday, a post appeared in the Cape Fear forum with a photograph of a toy airplane flying above a model globe with a caption reading “Your Cape Fear Proud Boys are on the move! We’re traveling today to pay a very special visit to some very nasty people. Stay tuned!” 

Four hours later, another post at 9:34 a.m. featured a short GIF showing an ammunition magazine being loaded into an AK-47 assault rifle with a caption reading “Gear up boys. It’s almost time. THIS ONE’S GONNA BE WILD!!” 

Around 11:15 a.m., a Winston-Salem police officer arrived at the show, according to event workers. 

One officer spoke to the event hosts and explained the protest rules to the protesters. Public property is fair domain to protest, such as sidewalks, but protestors cannot impede foot or vehicle traffic. The officer then left the scene. Police were also called by a neighboring business at 11:28 a.m. due to the ongoing harassment. Another round of police arrived again at 12:40 p.m., this time with sirens on.

Shortly afterwards, the protest group left the premises in the vehicles they arrived in which were notably missing the legally required license plates that would help identify the owners. 

Proud Boys attended a private drag event in Winston-Salem at Radar Brewing on June 10. Many of the cars driven by the members were missing license plates. (photo by James Douglas)

After the event at 9:42 p.m., a post with the event advertisement was posted on the Cape Fear Telegram group. “Proud Month, Day 10. Winston-Salem,” it read. “Radar Brewing in Winston-Salem advertised an all-ages drag brunch, asking parents to ‘use discretion’ when deciding to bring children.” Continuing, the poster warned “Children at drag events is not discretionary. It’s absolutely unacceptable. We will not let behavior like this go unopposed.”

At least one local Proud Boy member who was present and could be identified was Jonathan Moss, wearing a cowboy hat instead of a mask. Moss, of the Triad area, has been involved with local and national Proud Boy activities since the late 2010s. 

On Dec. 21, 2020, Moss posted a screenshot of a receipt for body armor from Safelifedefense.com with a caption that read “Getting ready for DC again” on his personal Instagram account; the post was later deleted. 

A post from Moss’s Instagram account on Jan. 7, 2021 featured a video of people breaking windows from a BLM protest with a caption that read, “The capitol belongs to the people, ‘we the people.’ We had every right to storm the building. We didn’t Burn it down, we didn’t Loot it, and we didn’t Murder anyone. There’s the difference. The capitol police murdered 4 innocent and unarmed Americans.” This post was also later deleted. It is unknown if there is other evidence, if any, that implicates Moss’s participation in the Capitol Insurrection. 

How has the city responded?

Councilman Kevin Mundy was notified of the appearance of the Proud Boy protesters and relayed the concern of the city’s Pride organizers about the safety and security of future events. Mundy is the city council’s only openly gay member. 

“We’ve never felt this threatened before,” he said. “It’s a real threat.”

Speaking about the law enforcement presence, Mundy explains that groups like the Proud Boys are “setting police officers up to violate their constitutional rights” through ruses that involve provocation. 

“The police have to walk that razor-thin line to protect us without violating the rights of these assholes [Proud Boys],” he said. 

Mundy said that the WSPD is paying close attention to the situation after Saturday’s incident and is working with the public and Pride organizers for Pride events that will be occurring throughout the downtown area at the end of the month. 

The Proud Boy rally took place just one day after the Pride Progress flag that hung outside of Winston-Salem’s city hall was vandalized. In the last few years, Proud Boys have attended multiple drag shows across the country, causing alarm for the LGBTQIA+ community.

Join the First Amendment Society, a membership that goes directly to funding TCB‘s newsroom.

We believe that reporting can save the world.

The TCB First Amendment Society recognizes the vital role of a free, unfettered press with a bundling of local experiences designed to build community, and unique engagements with our newsroom that will help you understand, and shape, local journalism’s critical role in uplifting the people in our cities.

All revenue goes directly into the newsroom as reporters’ salaries and freelance commissions.

⚡ Join The Society ⚡