This past summer, a woman named Anna Desenze -- an anti-masker who has expressed support for the QAnon conspiracy theory -- spoke at a school board meeting in Broward County, Florida. While railing against a school mask mandate, she falsely claimed that “there’s so much science out there that proves that the masks are more harmful than anything else” and that ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine can effectively treat the coronavirus. She later made similar claims at another school board meeting in October.
In July, the hosts of the MatrixxxGrooove Show, a show dedicated to QAnon, noted that Desenze was a listener of the show and claimed that they had encouraged her to take action. She’s “actually thanking us for her getting out there,” a co-host of the show said. They also posted and hyped the clips of her school board rants on Telegram.
Similarly, in September, a group of anti-mask protesters disrupted a closed meeting of a California school board, forced it to adjourn, and then voted themselves in as new members without any legal basis. One of the protesters, a man named Derek Greco, was named president of the new (illegitimate) school board.
Days before that meeting, Greco had posted a video on Facebook featuring QAnon show host Scott McKay claiming that he had been texting with Greco and that Greco had invoked a post from “Q,” the central figure of the conspiracy theory, while speaking before a city council meeting. Greco -- who has also posted a video about “the Great Awakening,” a QAnon-connected phrase -- wrote that he had met McKay in June and that he had “forever changed my view on how to address these issues in our local governments.”
McKay in turn posted praise for Greco’s school board takeover, writing, “This is where the war is being fought today.” And on his show, McKay claimed that Greco credited the QAnon show host for his actions at the school board meeting. McKay added that Greco “showed you how it works,” in that “you go after these milquetoast pussies and cowards, the dumbest people in America, on these school boards.” McKay declared, “It’s training ground for the city councils. It’s training ground for the town councils. It’s training ground for these city commissioners.”
In November, McKay posted an “update” from Greco about “taking over the school board,” claiming the government had “weaponized law enforcement against parent’s asking questions” and asking for help contacting other QAnon influencers.
Desenze and Greco’s actions appear to be part of an effort among QAnon influencers to get supporters more involved with local office elections and school boards. Michael Flynn, a QAnon-supporting former national security adviser for then-President Donald Trump, seems to have played a major role in spurring the movement, which appears to have already shown signs of impact.
In May, Flynn urged followers in a Telegram post to “get involved,” “take responsibility for your school committees or boards,” and “run for local, state and/or federal office.” He also added that “local action = national impact” (the MatrixxxGrooove Show used a similar phrase when it posted about Desenze at the school board meeting). Over the coming months, Flynn continued to make the case for people to take “local action” for a “national impact.”
Soon after Flynn’s call in May, attorney Sidney Powell also urged supporters to get involved locally. (Powell advised Trump’s legal efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and also has extensive QAnon ties.) During a QAnon conference in May, Powell told attendees that “there are no military tribunals that are going to solve this problem for us” and “it’s going to take every one of us rolling up their sleeves.” She also specifically called for people to target school boards as part of this local effort.
And in July, Lin Wood, another QAnon-supporting attorney involved with Trump’s election efforts and who unsuccessfully ran for chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, called for followers to “live local and take local action” and to “assemble and protest local school boards mandating masks or worse for our children.”
A number of QAnon influencers have since called for local action, such as telling people to go “to your school board meetings and demand they remove mask mandates and critical race theory.”
In August, “QAnon John,” the influencer who organized the May conference that Powell (and Flynn) attended, wrote that Flynn’s call was “VERY important.” An administrator for QAnon John’s group The Patriot Voice urged others to “get loud and in the face of school boards, city councils, county commissioners, [and] state reps.”
Zak Paine, a QAnon show host who participated in part of the January 6 insurrection, urged his listeners to “please consider running for school board,” adding, “Start going to the meetings and once you’re at the meetings, then you can start learning how they do their business and then you can go ahead and run for school board yourself.”
In October, a major QAnon Telegram channel even posted a link to an article on how to join a school board, calling it “food for thought” because “this nation ain’t gonna save itself.”
The influencers’ calls may be showing signs of impact, with some QAnon supporters claiming they’ve taken action in response. Some wrote that they were “running for school board” or were “in charge of my kids school board now.” Others wrote that they were helping to get “citizens involved on every level...city/county government, election boards, school boards, etc.,” or that they were “going to keep going every month” to school board meetings to attack mandates, noting that sometimes they were one of the few people there. “GhostEzra,” a neo-Nazi QAnon influencer, encouraged followers to run for office; in response, several said that they were “thinking about running for school board” or other offices like city council, including one follower who appeared to be a poll worker who was called as a “witness” by the Arizona state legislature following the 2020 presidential election to push voter fraud claims.
In response to a link shared in a QAnon channel about how to run for school board, users wrote that they “needed this” and asked for “a guide on how to become part of your city council and how to be appointed or elected to your county’s election board” as well. One follower of a QAnon influencer also bragged that she had joined her town council in West Virginia after encouragement from the influencer, sharing a video of herself being sworn in.
Some QAnon shows have also highlighted what they claim are signs of impact. The MatrixxxGrooove Show highlighted a video of a QAnon-supporting follower of the show making false claims about vaccines at a board of supervisors meeting in California and saying that “nothing can stop the awakening of humanity.” The man wrote that he credited the show’s hosts and Michael Flynn “for giving me the courage to do this,” with the hosts on the show urging Flynn to share the video and claiming that they had sent it to his brother. (Flynn did share the video as well, repeating his “national impact” slogan.)
Another QAnon show, SGT Report, has also featured an interview with an Ohio man who “read [his] school board the riot act, the legal riot act,” over mask mandates, and the man credited the show for his action. The host said the incident was part of “a great awakening,” and the man invoked Flynn’s “national impact” line for inspiring his strategy.
There have also been multiple reported instances of school board members and candidates supporting QAnon in Colorado, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. (While responding to a question about her QAnon posts, the Michigan school board member falsely claimed, “There’s no such thing as QAnon.” She was echoing Q’s call from late 2020 urging followers to stop using the term “QAnon” and to instead deny its existence.) A Rhode Island woman who invoked the QAnon slogan -- “where we go one, we go all,” or “wwg1wga” for short -- formed an anti-critical race theory group to target her school committee and wrote that she planned to “run for school committee.”
Other people who have expressed support for QAnon have also been elected around the country or tried to run for office, such as Tracy “Beanz” Diaz, one of the first people to popularize QAnon, being elected to a position in the Horry County, South Carolina, Republican Party, and QAnon supporter Gene Ho unsuccessfully running for mayor of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The QAnon community’s focus on school boards was also noted at QAnon John’s follow-up QAnon conference in Las Vegas in October. While discussing how attendees could get more involved, the conference’s emcee said, “What's happening in the school boards is magic.” The National Education Association, a labor union, also warned in June about QAnon school board candidates as an increasing issue nationally.
In addition to the “local action equals national impact” plan, the QAnon community has also embraced a plan called the “precinct strategy” to sign up as Republican precinct committee members -- who are involved with election activities -- which multiple QAnon supporters have also since done. Others on the far-right have also focused on local positions as a strategy for consolidating power and gaining influence in recent months.