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Armed Neo-Nazis With Swastika Flags Disrupt Wisconsin Pride Event

Armed Neo-Nazis With Swastika Flags Disrupt Wisconsin Pride Event

Swastika flag and Wisconsin State Patrol officers

“It was so terrifying to have Nazis there that even the religious protesters and Gays Against Groomers left,” an organizer said.


Swastika flag-bearing neo-Nazis, some of them armed, descended upon a Wisconsin LGBTQ+ Pride celebration on Saturday.

Members of Blood Tribe, a neo-Nazi extremist group, joined other right-wing hate groups, like Gays Against Groomers and anti-LGBTQ+ extremist religious organizations, in protesting the presence of drag queens as part of a Pride in the Park event in Watertown.

Gays Against Groomers, an anti-trans group, had been promoting disruptions at the event for days, highlighting it online and urging its extremist followers to join in protest at Riverside Park, the location of the festivities.

The Pride event organizers, Unity Project of Watertown, brought in food trucks, artisans and vendors, a drag performance, and a drag queen story hour event for kids.

Neo Nazis

A group arrived with guns and swastika flags in hand. Their faces were covered with balaclavas and sunglasses, and they wore khaki pants and black shirts. They started call-and-response-style chants. “Us or the pedophiles,” they chanted. “There will be blood, blood, blood!”

They also chanted, “Pedophiles get the rope!”

Throughout their chants, the neo-Nazis would frequently make the infamous one-armed salute.

In a video by independent videographer Ford Fisher, posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, a member of the LGBTQ+ community is seen pleading with a police officer to get the angry mob of extremists to leave.

"Tell them to leave," a person says to an officer. "We don't want them here!"

A Watertown police officer replies, "I get that, but we can't." He suggests that the extremists will go away if the supporter's side disperses its crowd standing between the celebrants and the hate groups.

“If you call your people back, they’ll most likely go,” the officer says, seemingly helpless as the screaming of vitriol continues.

Julie Janowak, a board member for the Unity Project of Watertown, the group that organized the Pride in the Park event, tells The Advocate that around 9 a.m., about 50 people from far-right religious groups arrived, followed by about a dozen members of Gays Against Groomers. She says that the neo-Nazis arrived around 10:45 a.m. and remained until after 11:30 a.m.

“They were there for about 40 to 45 minutes, and in that time, even the people from GAG and the religious zealots got scared and left,” Janowak says.


Through tears, she explains the importance of Pride in the Park.

“Our event was meant to be a day where LGBTQ+ folks and their allies from Watertown, a town of about 22 or 24,000 people halfway between Milwaukee and Madison — and it’s very rural out here — could celebrate,” she says.

“We just felt like we needed to have a place where the community could come out and see that other people like them are in this community.”

She says that in a time when political rhetoric has gotten extreme, it’s essential to show big and small communities that folks with different backgrounds live everywhere and want to exist.

Jaimee Michell, the lesbian who leads the DeSantis-connected hate group Gays Against Groomers and lives in the Milwaukee area, where the group is registered as a nonprofit organization, spoke at the protest.

She tweeted afterward that the “highlight of her day” was “finding common ground” with “the other side.” She claimed to have convinced some of the people she spoke to who opposed her point of view initially found themselves convinced to support the group's transphobic stances.

The hate group tried to push the conspiracy theory that federal agents were conspiring to pose as neo-Nazis. Far-right zealots and those who are terminally online believe that FBI agents generate “false flag” or staged events and dress like members of extremist groups to get negative attention.

“Out of all the protests that happen around the country, ours that we have been promoting for weeks in a little Wisconsin town was swarmed with these people. It’s pretty transparent what is going on. We are incredibly effective and the opposition is doing everything they can to smear and discredit us. Groomer Inc. and their cohorts will do whatever they can to silence us. It isn’t going to work,” the group wrote.

Wisconsin’s Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, condemned the protest and the display of neo-Nazi symbols.

“This is a disgusting and direct attack on our state’s LGBTQ community, communities of color, and Jewish Wisconsinites,” Evers said in a statement to The Advocate. “Nazis, swastikas, and any other anti-LGBTQ, white supremacist, or anti-Semitic messages, symbols, or groups are unacceptable and unwelcome in Wisconsin. Period.”

He said he was particularly concerned by the public display of hatred, which disrupted, intimidated, and harassed kids and families just trying to honor the LGBTQ+ community.

“This is dangerous, hateful behavior, and it should be condemned in all of its forms and by every elected official at every level, and that includes all those who continue to push radical rhetoric, divisive legislation and litigation, and falsehoods and disinformation about the LGBTQ community—those words, those actions, and those policies have real and harmful consequences,” Evers said.

“LGBTQ Wisconsinites deserve to be treated with dignity, decency, kindness, and respect just like every other Wisconsinite, and they deserve to be safe being who they are without fear or threat of shame, harassment, intimidation, or violence. I will continue to support and protect them,” he concluded.

Michell and Gays Against Groomers engage in stochastic terrorism tactics, according to experts. Like the far-right extremist Chaya Raichik, who runs the Libs of TikTok account and who has turned her anti-LGBTQ+ hatred into a lucrative business that is currently hiring content creators, GAG and Michell motivate their followers to become enraged. That rage sometimes leads to disruptive or violent acts.


The fact that neo-Nazis would join GAG to terrify innocent members of the LGBTQ+ community is unsurprising. Last year, a group of far-right extremists from Patriot Front attempted to attack a Pride in the Park event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. They were thwarted and arrested before they could make it to the celebration.

In May, members of Blood Tribe menaced a drag story hour event in Ohio.

Several weeks before that, the same group targeted another Ohio event for the LGBTQ+ community.

The Advocate contacted Watertown Police Chief Robert Kaminski but did not immediately hear back. Likewise, the Wisconsin State Patrol, whose officers were present at the ruckus, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

After armed neo-Nazis stormed the event, and after GAG at first sent out a statement disavowing them before claiming they were federal agents, Michell posted a photo celebrating the disruption of the event.

At 3:22 p.m., the main GAG account tweeted out a statement attempting to distance itself from the neo-Nazis, the presence for which it was responsible.

“We are disheartened and outraged by the unwanted intrusion of extremist ideologies at an event intended to protect and advocate for the well-being of children, particularly by a group historically known for experimenting on children much like our modern-day enemies,” the statement read. “Unfortunately, we cannot always control who we are seen with in public. We are focused on safeguarding the rights of parents and welfare of children, which is a non-partisan issue. We categorically denounce all forms of extremism, including the abhorrent ideologies represented by those identifying as Nazis.”

The organization negated its statement eight minutes later, pushing the FBI agents as far-right extremists conspiracy theory.
“TL;DR: Feds gonna fed,” Gays Against Groomers wrote.

Leading up to the event, the group called for “all who oppose this” to join in protesting Saturday's festival.

“We can only make change if we show up! The time is now! Pride is not for kids,” the group tweeted. As recently as Friday, the group was directing anybody like-minded to direct their anger at those who dared come to enjoy a beautiful summer day of joy.

“If you’re joining us tomorrow for the pride in the park protest, this is where we will be stationed. We’ve made it easy for you to find,” the group wrote alongside a map that three labeled areas: “Parking,” “GAG,” and “Groomers.”

Organizers tell The Advocate that the event was a success ultimately after the neo-Nazis left. They credit the local police department as being responsive and planning ahead to keep everybody safe.

An estimated 400-500 people attended the Pride in the Park event in the town of a little over 20,000 residents.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to include a statement from Gov. Tony Evers.

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