Pedogate is a reference to a baseless conspiracy theory affiliated with the QAnon movement. QAnon followers interpret messages posted online by a supposed anonymous United States military insider who tells them that Donald Trump will spark a revolution against “deep state” actors. They call this event the “storm” — a day when high-level pedophiles embedded in the American power structure will be arrested.
The vandalism has left Rogers and Alfonso confused, shaken and wondering “why us?”
BBAM! frequently hosts LGBTQ artists, and the gallery’s latest exhibition is called You’re Gayer Than a Picnic Basket, which addresses the artist’s experience of being the target of hate.
“And then,” Rogers said, “we get attacked by hate. Ironic.”
She and Alfonso are thankful for the community support they’ve received. They have also heard of similar graffiti appearing elsewhere in the neighbourhood, and worry it could become a trend.
“You do go online,” Rogers said, “and you start to read, and sometimes it’s out there and then they believe you’re part of this Pizzagate ring (another baseless conspiracy theory about child trafficking) or whatever it is, and people, they believe it. Who knows what they’re saying on their message boards?”
Though some QAnon followers have had their faith shaken by the inauguration of President Joe Biden — an event their doctrine maintained was impossible — other, more extreme believers are clinging to their beliefs. Quebec conspiracy theorist Alexis Cossette-Trudel posted a video online late Thursday urging his followers to be patient, insisting the “storm” would still arrive.
QAnon has inspired violence previously. Its supporters were among those who stormed the United States Capitol building on Jan. 6, and, in a 2016 prelude to QAnon, internet myths inspired a man to fire a gun inside a Washington pizzeria he believed was a front for child trafficking.
This story will be updated.
Vandals spray-painted QAnon-themed graffiti across the windows of a Montreal art gallery this week — an example of how the online conspiracy movement can inspire extremist behaviour in the real world.
Tuesday evening, just after 9, a man and a woman wearing black clothes and carrying cans of spray paint approached the BBAM! Gallery, on Atwater Ave. in St-Henri. Surveillance footage shows the couple tagging the gallery, painting words like “pedogate,” and slinking away when cars passed.
“It’s awful,” said Alison E. Rogers, who co-owns and operates BBAM! with her husband, Ralph Alfonso. “It comes from hate and ignorance.”
“We’re still trying to process it,” Alfonso said.
They discovered the graffiti Wednesday morning, cleaned it and called the police, who, upon realizing the significance of the vandalism, became worried.
“Initially, the officer who is assigned to the case didn’t seem to know too much about the imagery,” Rogers said Friday. “But then when he came back yesterday to get the footage, he had done research and he was more concerned, because there’s that QAnon aspect and there’s a very dangerous element.”