Anna Moneymaker / The New York Times
Friday, Oct. 22, 2021 | 2 a.m.
Leading far-right conspiracy theorists who have spread false information about voter integrity, the COVID-19 pandemic and more are converging on Las Vegas this weekend for an event that was dropped by its original host amid concerns over the city being used as a platform to promote political extremism.
The “For God & Country Patriot Double Down” event, which runs through Monday at the 203-room Ahern Hotel near the Strip, features a guest lineup of QAnon sympathizers and extremist-right figureheads. According to the event’s website, nearly 40 speakers are scheduled to be on hand, as well as two “surprise guests” and four entertainers. There’s also a “Patriot Rooftop Party” and a “Las Vegas Dinner Show” so attendees can gain a “renewed sense of hope, and a desire and motivation to get involved in their respective communities.”
It’s unknown how many people will attend the event, as organizers are providing no details about it beyond what’s on the website. Sun reporters reached out to the group multiple times this week, but our requests have gone unanswered. The newspaper also requested media credentials to cover the event, but heard nothing.
Several speakers have confirmed their attendance via social media. Among them are controversial doctor Stella Immanuel, who gained attention after spreading COVID-19 misinformation, and Ron and Jim Watkins, administrators of a right-wing internet forum. Many people believe Ron Watkins is “Q,” the mysterious figure behind QAnon.
QAnon is a wide-ranging conspiracy theory that started in 2017 when an anonymous user claiming to have access to classified information put a series of posts on the 4chan message board, signing the messages as “Q.” The user theorized that Hillary Clinton would be arrested and that a violent uprising would occur nationwide.
Some QAnon conspiracies include: President Donald Trump is a messiah sent by God; many elites in the “deep state” are Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run child sex-trafficking rings; and COVID-19 and its vaccines are a hoax created by the liberal government and pharmaceutical companies.
Many speakers scheduled to appear at the convention also promote disproven claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent, including Republican Jim Marchant, a former member of the Nevada Assembly who is running for secretary of state in 2022. He is attending to promote his campaign, but he does not support the QAnon conspiracy theories, he said Wednesday in a phone interview.
Marchant said he does not know a “whole lot” about the event, including when exactly he is scheduled to speak. He just wants to get in front of as many like-minded, conservative people as he can to highlight his campaign, which will focus on election integrity. He does not support the QAnon conspiracies, he said, because he does not know what QAnon is.
“Nobody can tell me what it is,” he said. The people who are putting on the event can’t even tell him what QAnon is, he said.
Marchant claims on his website that he “was a victim of election fraud” after losing by 16,000 votes to Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., in 2020. As secretary of state, he would work for a “fair and transparent election, no matter who wins.” (Multiple claims of election fraud in Nevada, and nationally, by Republicans have been repeatedly debunked.)
The convention has run into a few planning snafus, such as in late August when Caesars Entertainment pulled out of hosting the event after community backlash.
Ahern Hotel, owned by Don Ahern, agreed to host the convention instead. Ahern last summer also hosted a mega-Trump rally at his heavy equipment company in Henderson and in May gave $1 million to Make America Great Again Action Inc., according to the Federal Election Commission.
Another snag occurred when PayPal and another payment platform called Brushfire both dropped The Patriot Voice as the event’s ticket payment platform, according to the Telegram channel of event organizer John Sabal, who goes by “QAnon John” and has more than 19,000 subscribers.
“Due to the nature of your activities, we have chosen to discontinue service to you in accordance with PayPal’s User Agreement,” PayPal Brand Risk Management said in an email to Sabal, who posted it on his Telegram. “As a result, we have placed a permanent limitation on your account.”
The Patriot Voice had to create its own payment platform for people to buy tickets, which cost $650 for general admission, $1,300 for VIP and $3,000 for high roller VIP.
Sabal has referred to journalists as “Lamestream Media snakes” and wrote on his Telegram that any journalist who tries to sneak in “better think again.” Sabal and the Patriot Voice, organizers of the event, did not return requests for comment.
“Also, we reserve every right to remove you from the premises at our discretion,” he wrote. “Go write about that, you clowns.”
Experts said having the conference in Las Vegas could be dangerous, especially with Patriot Voice bringing in a “security team” from 1st Amendment Praetorian, a volunteer paramilitary group that attends conservative events with the aim of foiling threats from protesters.
But Metro Police said there is nothing to indicate a cause for concern. There will not be any extra law enforcement presence on the part of the police department, but the Ahern Hotel will hire additional off-the-clock police officers for security purposes, which is standard procedure, public information officer Misael Parra said. The police also have no knowledge of anyone planning a protest.
Kristen Doerer, managing editor of Right Wing Watch, said in a previous article that the conference lineup represented a “who’s who of the far-right movement, particularly the QAnon movement.”
“This lineup kind of shows how QAnon has infiltrated the Republican Party,” she said. “What you can expect at this event is a lot of talk about the false claims that the election was stolen from former President Donald Trump and a lot of anti-mask and anti-vaccine sentiment.”
Casey Harrison and Bryan Horwath contributed to this story.