Masked, black-clad, and armed members of the Elm Fork John Brown Gun Club guard Patchouli Joe’s Books and Indulgences in Denton, Texas on Saturday, November 19, 2022 (Photo courtesy: Hudson Crozier).
Elm Fork John Brown Gun Club, a Texas-based group tied to “antifascist” or “antifa” activism, was suspended from Twitter on Tuesday, rendering all of its tweets unavailable. Twitter banned the account for “hateful conduct,” which includes promoting violence, threats, or harassment, according to a screenshot shared on the group’s backup account.
The news comes after masked, black-clad members of the group guarded a bookstore hosting a “Transgender Storytime” for children in Denton, Texas on Saturday, drawing media attention toward the group. At least three of the militants carried semi-automatic rifles and stood outside with others holding LGBT Pride flags as a band of conservatives loudly protested the event, according to on-the-ground reporting by Red Liberty Media.
Local families arrived at Patchouli Joe’s Books and Indulgences, which invited hosts to read “children's books about gender identity, belonging, and friendship” on its website. The conservative activism group Protect Texas Kids, which advocates against “the indoctrinating agenda of the left,” called the event “abusive” and encouraged a protest on social media.
The antifa-style group, which presents itself in online blogs as “community defense against white supremacy/fascism,” later said that it had been invited to guard the event. Members supervised activity indoors and occasionally walked through an outside gate leading to the back of the building. One was seen escorting a parent and her child down the street as they left the store.
Protect Texas Kids leader Kelly Neidert was joined by Alex Stein and Sara Gonzales of Blaze TV, religious conservatives and several masked right-wingers. Like at other protests in North Texas, the conservatives argued that exposing children to LGBT topics is inappropriate and harmful. They accused organizers and the antifa of promoting “genital mutilation,” a reference to controversial gender transition surgeries given to minors in the state.
Kelly Neidert (left) joins protestors at Patchouli Joe’s (Photo courtesy: Hudson Crozier).
Stein, a comedian and provocateur, filmed and taunted the armed guards for “protecting these children so they can get indoctrinated.” He continued to get close to them but was aggressively pushed away. Others stood around chastising them as “groomers.”
“There is no such thing as a trans kid!” said Gonzales, who repeatedly shouted “Patchouli Joe’s supports child abuse!” at passerby through a megaphone.
Members of the Catholic organization New Columbia Movement loudly chanted “the Lord’s Prayer” and “Hail Mary” prayers while holding a banner that read, “defend traditional values.”
Another unidentified group stood in a circle and prayed, and some held signs bearing statements such as “the Creator made them male and female.”
Pro-transgender activist Amber Briggle, who read material to children at the event, later thanked the “Protectors outside the bookstore” in a Facebook post.
EFJBGC members outside of Patchouli Joe’s (Photo courtesy: Hudson Crozier).
Named after a 19th-century abolitionist who was executed in South Carolina in 1859, the far-left John Brown Gun Club has chapters all over the country but no formal hierarchy, according to Counter Extremism Project. The Elm Fork, Texas chapter had over 16,000 Twitter followers as of August and is known for strong anti-police rhetoric, claiming that cops exist to “harass minorities” and that “every single one” “is a mass shooter in waiting.”
Previous activities by EFJBGC have been more volatile, especially for Neidert, who led a conservative student organization at the University of North Texas (UNT) before graduating this year. The gun club repeatedly called for protestors to disrupt her events on social media, resulting in mobs of students and black-clad activists chasing her and other conservative students off of the campus twice. She later claimed that a Twitter user who threatened violence against her in February was an EFJBGC member and UNT student named Garrett Lee.
“For legal purposes, this is a direct threat,” the tweet read. “Enjoy your kneecaps while you’ve still got them.”
Since expanding her activism in North Texas, armed and masked individuals from right-wing groups have increasingly appeared to protect her in public, though none of the masked conservatives at Patchouli Joe’s appeared to be armed.
In one of the most highly-publicized demonstrations by EFJBGC, members stood with semi-automatic rifles outside of a restaurant in Roanoke, Texas that hosted an all-ages drag show in August. Neidert, who was present that day, later called for an investigation by Denton County District Attorney Paul Johnson, alleging that the activists illegally provided unlicensed security to the business, which didn’t invite them. Johnson, a Republican, hasn’t responded to the request.
Anonymous right-wing activists keep watch over the protest at Patchouli Joe’s (Photo courtesy: Hudson Crozier).