Police in Montreal, Quebec, are investigating the graffiti vandalism of a local art gallery last week by QAnon supporters.
The incident occurred around 9pm on January 19, the eve of Joe Biden’s inauguration as the new president of the United States. Security cameras captured a man and a woman, both clad in black, spray-painting QAnon messages like “Pedogate” and “Fuck Satan” on the storefront of BBAM! Gallery in Montreal’s Saint-Henri neighborhood. The attackers also painted a circled “V” sign, known to stand for “vendetta.”
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The vandals later tagged similar messages on nearby a daycare center. Both incidents are now under investigation by the Montreal police hate crimes unit. No arrests have been made yet.
BBAM! Gallery’s co-founders, Alison E. Rogers and Ralph Alfonso, discovered the hateful graffiti on the morning after the attack and immediately contacted the police.
“It was shocked and sick to my stomach,” Rogers told Hyperallergic. “The big question I have is why us?”
Alfonso believes that the attack is related to the gallery’s current exhibition by Quebec-born artist Ian Stone. Titled You’re Gayer Than A Picnic Basket, a reappropriation of a derogatory insult, the exhibition addresses homophobia and ideas of conformity within the LGBTQ+ community in a series of portraits based on selfies (some of which are sexually suggestive) posted by gay and bisexual men on dating apps.
Alfonso, a musician and former music producer, bemoaned the cruel irony of an attack against an exhibition addressing the dangers of bigotry, saying, “Art now translates into real life for us.”
QAnon believers are driven by the unfounded conspiracy theory that a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles run a global child sex-trafficking ring. They receive their instructions through coded messages from a person or a group who uses the pseudonym “Q” and purports to be a high-ranking government official. According to the Montreal Gazette, these theories spilled to Quebec through a radio show hosted by conspiracy theorist Alexis Cossette-Trudel. The popular radio host used his platform to interpret “Q” messages and make predictions about US politics, according to the Gazette.
QAnon followers, along with the Proud Boys and other right-wing groups, took a leading role in the insurrection of the US Capitol earlier this month, an event they called “the Storm.” However, many of them were left disenchanted by “Q” after they realized that the promise of deposing Biden and arresting the “deep state cabal” was not fulfilled.
The attack on the gallery was a sobering moment for Rogers, who has never been exposed to QAnon extremists in her home city.
“There’s a certain naivety lost after knowing that we live so close to hatred,” Rogers said. “It’s not in the shadows anymore and I don’t think it will go back there.”
Last summer, the gallery exhibited a painting depicting Trump as Adolf Hitler, which the gallerists say drew no immediate backlash. Artist Layla Folkmann’s oil painting, “Trumpler” (2020), shows the former US president with a Hitler mustache and an atomic mushroom cloud in his background.
The couple, who will soon celebrate their gallery’s 11th anniversary, stressed that their top concern following the attack is protecting their artists.
“We were used to standing behind the artists, but now we stand in front of them,” Alfonso said. “We’re not going to back down or be afraid,” he continued. “Giving in to those fanatics would be extremely dangerous.”