Photo by Gerry Dincher. “This barn is part of a series of tobacco barns and buildings painted in an odd style at the intersection of Red Hill, Stanton Hill, and Nickens Road west of Cameron in Moore County, North Carolina. This barn and others like it in the area were painted by David Ellis and a group of artists known as the Barnstormers. Ellis is a New York City based artist who grew up in Moore County.”
Last Saturday night in Moore County, N.C., someone intentionally attacked two electrical substations. About 45,000 people lost power. It looks likely that this is an act of homegrown terror.
While leads are slim in Moore County, suspicions are high. We don’t yet know who shot up the power stations, but we do know that far-right extremist politics never serve and always hurt poor and working people. In Moore County this week, local families lost their perishable food and suffered through cold December nights with no heat. Many households are on well water and without power could not wash or drink. Businesses were closed and working people lost days of wages. Hospitals were run on backup generators and schools were shut down for almost an entire week.
The good news: power was mostly restored after five days. The FBI is looking for more information and pursuing search warrants as we write. But this is a complicated story that deserves more attention.
Poor and working people in rural NC deserve safety and security and, at Down Home, we believe that the surest path towards this is to build power. That’s why we wanted this month’s GRITS to shine a light on what’s happening down in Moore County and across the state.
1. Attacks on LGBTQI+ communities are designed to tear us apart.
While a connection has not been officially established, the attack on the substations happened just as a hotly contested drag show began in the town of Southern Pines. Many local people, including local extremists, are making the connection between these two events. A harassment and intimidation campaign against the drag show and theater was already making headlines before the lights went off.
North Carolina has had more threats lodged against the queer community this year than any other state with at least 10 incidents of far-right extremists, from Proud Boys to neo-Nazis, showing up to protest children’s storytime hours and to fight at drag shows. We wrote about this threat and asked our community for vigilance in the News and Record this past July.
Even in “progressive” Asheville, the state’s first trans school board member was badgered into resigning after anti-LGBTQ attacks.
The most important part of building a large, broad based working class movement is including and protecting ALL of us. The far-right is targeting the LGBTQI+ community in order to create division and break up the power we can have together.
Our members recognize this. That’s why they’ve endorsed and stood behind trans candidates, called for people to speak up about anti-LGBTQ book bans, and reminded us that education has to include everyone.
And just so you know: the drag show last Saturday continued even without power, and “it was a beautiful moment.”
2. Far right extremist activity is increasing in North Carolina.
The harassment campaign, the protests, and potentially this act of sabotage in Moore County are all a culmination of years of far-right extremist escalation in North Carolina.
In Moore County, one extremist has received a lot of attention in news reports this week: Emily Rainey. She’s a former Army PsyOps captain who’s well known in extremist circles for her involvement in January 6 and other antics. Local law enforcement talked to Rainey the night the substations were attacked because of her posts on social media. Rainey is just one of many bad actors associated with formal and informal organizing in the state.
Rainey is just one example of military and law enforcement engaging with racist and extremist behavior. In many county’s where Down Home organizes, ties between extremists and law enforcement are common (that’s one reason why big election wins like that of Sheriff Robert Fountain in Granville County are so important to us!).
Extremism flourishes in places that feel like they have no other options. Poor and working people in rural communities need to create alternatives and positive solutions to our local concerns.
At Down Home, we have been educating our communities about the threats of extremism through our Homefront teach-ins and through work such as that of our public schools campaign. Most of us in North Carolina want positive, healthy communities and security; we cannot allow extremists to force their way into the mainstream.
3. The government and mainstream media are avoiding the real issue here.
We need to see this incident in Moore County for what it is: a dangerous attack on vulnerable infrastructure that affects us all.
Gov. Cooper has called it “a serious, intentional crime.” Investigators say they’re following threads from two related issues: radical right extremists encouraging attacks on public infrastructure, and continued attacks on the LGBTQ community.
We can’t afford to continue to downplay the threat of radical right-wing domestic terrorism.
One reason Down Home focuses on local organizing is because we are the ones most responsive to the immediate problems facing us. While investigators and media are being cautious and have spent many days calling this attack a form of vandalism, we have seen what this actually means in our communities. The goal of extremists is to divide us. We are safest when we are together.