“Come on, bitch!” a man with a long pole adorned with a yellow “Don’t tread on me” flag says to an off-camera group. The man with a pole is part of a group of thirty or so antivaxxers/anti-maskers/anti-CRT protesters or whatever the right wing rabble riled up by conspiracy theories and racist rhetoric wants to call itself these days. The people filming are a collection of antifascists and journalists, including LCRW’s correspondent, who went to observe them standing in the middle of the street in a residential neighborhood as they shouted at the house where a Clark County official lives.
“Fuck your momma, you fucking [n-word] motherfucker!” another person off-camera says as the man unsuccessfully jabs his pole at an observer’s camera.
“We’re here to have a peaceful protest. You guys are not!” a woman says into a bullhorn.
The Clark County School District has been facing a lot of challenges lately: the firing of their Superintendent, Jesus Jara in a contentious 3-4 vote, (followed by a lawsuit, and his potential rehiring,) long overdo anti-racism policy finally rolling out, teachers and staff facing lack of access to healthcare. And while the district tries to sort out all these issues, fascist groups continue to relentlessly harass board meetings with nonsensical complaints and disruptive behavior. More notably, they’ve begun showing up at local politicians’ homes as well.
On November 21st, around 4:00 pm, a group of around 35 antivaxxers claiming association with World Wide Freedom Rally gathered in a Walmart parking lot, intent on making noise against any semblance of COVID restrictions. Among them was one John Carlo, aka “GhostPatriot1776,” a locally well-known far-right agitator and organizer. The lot carpooled and caravaned to the home of Linda Cavazos, the President of the Clark County School Board of Trustees. There, they turned on their bullhorns to make nearly-actionable threats like “place oughta burn down,” accuse the board president of being a child abuser, and chant badly. And predictably, Carlo turned on his camera to show off to his followers, at one point showing them the license plate of a truck parked in Carvazos’s driveway.
The group claimed they were protesting mask and vaccine mandates in Clark County schools, but the odd bit of Critical Race Theory nonsense wasn’t left out. Showing up at a person’s house may be a new kind of escalation, at least for the group in Las Vegas. But completely manufactured claims of CRT being “pushed onto children to divide America” and “erasing whites” (as some Las Vegas antivaxx propaganda LCRW reviewed puts it) have been fueling “grassroots” right-wing organizing across the country for the last several months. The local rabble has been predictably focused on CCSD. Carlo has also found his clout through routine harassment and disruption of CCSD board meetings for the past 7 months.
Throughout the far-right rabble’s protests, local teachers and groups such as “No Racism In Schools #1865” attend Clark County School Board meetings to push for much needed reform and change in Clark County’s education system. Currently, CCSD’s only response to racist discrimination, harassment, or bullying relies on the reactions of their independent police force, the Clark County School District Police Department. No Racism in Schools (NRIS) co-founder Akiko-Ayalla Cooks told LCRW that community members “don’t trust CCSD,” because the officers are an intimidating presence.
“I’ve had kids ask me if the officers are going to shoot them. They have AR-15s at school and the kids ask me if it’s gonna be used on them,” Cooks said.
Despite the funding and resources available to CCSDPD, they don’t seem to prevent harassment at either schools or school boards. There’s been a steady flow of fascist elements appearing at public meetings over the last several months. During previous CCSD board meetings, members of the audience have thrown up Sieg Heils, jeered anyone who wasn’t on their side during public comment, and yelled about vaccine-mandates until they had to be physically ejected from the room.
In the face of this, Cooks and her group have continued to show up for students. With NRIS’ advocacy and support, CCSD has finally begun to write and roll out a proper anti-racism policy. At the same time, we are currently in the midst of a national fake outrage campaign against “Critical Race Theory in schools,” which is predictably trickling down to the local level. Clark County far-right leader Brandon Burns of the Proud Boys-aligned antivaxx group Freedom of Choice directed his followers to attack the anti-racism policy NRIS pushed for, claiming that it’s “CRT in disguise.”
Cooks says that moves and statements like this are a deliberate power-grab by far-right groups like Freedom of Choice.
“They use public education because they know that’s where people get emotional. They want to dismantle things from the inside out so they can step in and get all this power, and bring back all the things they miss about the segregation era,” Cooks told LCRW.
“Kale,” a Las Vegas anti-fascist activist who prefers anonymity, has been observing CCSD board meetings closely in recent months and also believes them to be targets for the far-right.
“Since the Jan. 6th riot, people on the right have been urging their groups to seize boards and local offices. It’s a deliberate action to seize power. It’s happening everywhere across the country,” Kale said.
In Las Vegas, far-right figures and groups have indeed made direct references to “taking back our schools” and continue to use fear-mongering tactics to target parents and students and galvanize their own base.
Kale’s statement matches a worrying national trend. On September 29th the National School Board Association wrote a letter to the Biden administration requesting that they address “threats of violence and acts of intimidation” taking place at meetings throughout the country, saying that “as these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.” Though the letter was later retracted due to the language used, its existence shows that right-wing intimidation at school boards has become increasingly prevalent nationwide. Additionally, In an interview with CNN, the executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, Daniel A. Domenech, said that:
”What has been happening with school board meetings is that they have become a battleground.”
He also described the right’s focus on school closures, mask and vaccine-mandates, and their fear-mongering of CRT:
“…it’s really changing the dynamics of school boards and what school boards are about in a way that we have never seen before.”
And this nationwide trend is definitely visible on the local level. According to Kale, the fascist presence at board meetings tends to ebb and flow depending on the meetings’ agenda. Things like anti-racism, masks, and vaccines can fill the room with an energized and emotional mob, whereas budget overviews or staff reviews won’t bring the attention of a single agitator.
But when the right does show up, they don’t come to make comments or advocate for policy—they come under the influence of weaponized unreality, ready to harass and heckle. In-between teachers’ testimonies regarding their experience with lack of health coverage, and students’ concerns with unsafe environments, members of the audience almost compete to cause the most disruption.
“It was like an infuriating episode of The Simpsons,” Kale said, “people yelling and calling the board pedophiles while teachers are waiting through all this nonsense to ask for healthcare and reform to protect students.” Kale also feels that the ejections are deliberate, as well.
“The people that got thrown out were intending to get thrown out; they were there to make a show,” they said.
LCRW’s own observations of school board meetings largely confirm this. At each opportunity during board meetings we observed, far-right agitators completely disobeyed warnings and went out of their way to be loud and disruptive. They weren’t there to reasonably argue or make any rational point. They were there because they had been enraged and charged up by bigoted conspiracy-mongers and then set loose on local institutions in an attempt to weaken them.
One of Nevada’s most influential hatemongers is Joey Gilbert, a former boxer turned-lawyer who joined rioters at the Jan. 6th capitol attack and now hopes to become the next governor of Nevada. Alongside campaigning, he currently prides himself most on being Director of Strategy at America’s Frontline Doctors, a right-wing political group that has spread COVID disinformation and raked in profits, doing so.
In a recent speech on Facebook live, Gilbert claimed that the school boards are “definitely hiding something” and the only solution would be “boots on the ground.”
One of the more notable of these “boots on the ground” incidents came Oct 28th, when John Carlo, aka “GhostPatriot1776,” attended a board meeting draped in a confederate flag. Like many times before, he walked in with a script. He wanted to complain about communism in schools, the horrors of masks, the dangers of vaccines, and then make enough of a ruckus that the board asks for his removal. Carlo has attended previous meetings adorned in MAGA gear, claiming to be under the employ of “the one true governor of the universe, Jesus” and explaining that racism doesn’t exist. He was ejected from previous meetings as well, and cited for trespassing—a reaction he anticipates and seems to thrive off of. But since the trustee boards meetings are held publicly, he is allowed to return again, and again, and again. But on Oct 28th, this wasn’t tolerated. When he entered the chambers and began his usual shtick, Akiko-Ayalla Cooks of No Racism in Schools was present. CCSDPD officers told Cooks to ignore Carlo and remain seated.
“No, we won’t, we ain’t having that,” Cooks responded.
She led a small group of supporters to block his entry, eventually leading CCSDPD officers to remove him from the building.
At the November 21st rally at the Board President’s house, however, there was no relief. Though CCSDPD claimed that they were monitoring the protest from two unmarked cars, they made no visible appearance and did nothing to control or disperse the crowd. Police certainly have the capability to shut down protests like this. Similarly-executed left-aligned peaceful protests outside LVMPD Officer Andrew Locher’s house on November 3rd saw response from officers within 30 minutes and were directly targeted and dispersed by police.
But police allowed the far-right crowd on the 21st to remain chanting and playing sirens outside Cavazos’s residence for around 2 hours, before and went to do the same at the houses of Clark County Commissioner Richard L. “Tick” Segerblom and Commissioner Jim Gibson.
“noise outside my house, something about unconstitutional mask mandate,” Segerblom wrote on Twitter, adding “i guess i’m a communist bastard.”
Though it was pitch black outside and the disturbance was undeniably concerning for their targets, the protests ended without any incident. There was no police or community intervention at any of these events, and a week later on the 28th of November, they did it again, but with more vitriol.
Just after sunset around 5:30 PM, roughly two dozen protesters arrived at Clark County Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick’s house and immediately begun flashing strobes at her windows, blaring sirens through megaphones, and demanding to “lock her up.”
Shortly after, LCRW arrived on the scene and began documenting the demonstration. When a cameraperson was noticed wearing a mask, protesters in the crowd began calling out “antifa!” and “communists!” and moved to confront the cameras. The crowd hurled petty insults, slurs, and threats like “we should noose you commies.” John Carlo argued with people about why he can’t say the n-word. When NLVPD finally made an appearance around 6:30 PM, they spoke briefly with protesters and then promptly left the scene. The man with the “don’t tread on me” flag tried to jab it at observers repeatedly until one pulled out pepper spray and warned him not to. One person from the right wing rabble revealingly claimed that “we don’t get no opposition out here.” After police left, they resumed harassing the neighborhood, continuing with threats like “I got a pistol for that mouth” until the protest wound down.
“We’ll do nothing tonight,” one of the crowd said as some of them walked away from the observers. “We’ll get these motherfuckers when the timing is right.”