I tell a local Proud Boy to “Stand down” as they plan to protest a local drag show Dec. 3rd
Two men, one black, one white

I am a journeyman with IATSE Local 12, the local stagehands’ union. We’re freelance artisans and laborers who build the majority of theatrical productions in Central Ohio.

We’re also the primary builders (and uninstallers) of the dozens of trade shows that go through the Greater Columbus Convention Center near the Short North. Whereas the theaters tend to work longer and more irregular hours for us, the Convention Center gigs are predicable, 9-to-5 jobs that often last longer.

Being a dyed-in-the-wool theatre kid, I strongly prefer the magic of a theater to the cold concrete and fluorescent lights of the Convention Center. On the other hand, the regular crews at the Convention Center tend to be a little more blue-collar and have a more ribald (vulgar) sense of humor than most of the regular theater crews.

As an after-effect, the Convention Center tends to attract the more practical, blue-collar stagehand whereas the theaters attract the wild cards – minus the ribald part.

The exception to this rule lies in the political affiliations of our members. The predominantly middle-aged-white-male workforce experienced two significant rifts in the aftermath of COVID regulations: one condition of re-opening to the area theaters has been that all workers must show proof of vaccination before working in those buildings.

Probably due to a difficult but wise human resource decision, the Convention Center has no such restrictions. As an after-effect, those of us who believe in things like the validity of the vote, the positive effect of vaccinations and the danger of white supremacist ideology, for instance, work at the theaters. As long as they keep their mouths shut, those who lean the other direction work at the Convention Center.

One such member was removed from the worksite on Saturday, November 12 for passing out inappropriate literature onsite. For the purposes of this, let’s call him “Andy.” I’ve known Andy for six years. He, too, is a journeyman stagehand; before finding out about his affiliation, he and I had had great conversations about the fraught nature of the country in light of the most recent unrest.

During the summer of ‘21 at a festival in Mansfield, he asked me what I’d thought about the previous year’s upheaval. When I told him that while I believed the country tended to heal itself after every major catastrophe – Civil War, Jim Crowe, the railways, women’s suffrage, etc. – we were still in the middle of a paradigm shift whose outcome is totally unchartered and, as such, it might take a whole generation, not just a matter of a few years, to begin to heal the wounds from the previous two.

On this day, “Andy” smiled, extended his hand to me, and I shook it. We went back to work.

Six months later we were on a work site near downtown when I noticed a hat he was wearing: It was a black hat with a gold-and-black US flag decal on it and a single word running atop of it: Uhuru.

“What does that mean?” I asked him.

“I thought we weren’t supposed to talk about politics at work. Besides, aren’t you on the Left?” he said.

“Yeah,” I said. “And?”

He smiled at me the same way he did when he shook my hand six months earlier. Then he pulled out a coin and showed it to me. The gold-and-black coin had two letters on it.


“Uhuru,” I later found out, is a Swahili word that means “freedom.” It’s just one of the many things the so-called “western chauvinist” Proud Boy organization has appropriated to confuse the masses. 

He showed me that coin about six months ago. About an hour after he showed me the coin, I walked over to him and said that while the war was cold right now, I knew where to point the guns the moment things got hot again.

He smiled and walked away.

We started the latest Convention Center job on Friday, November 11, 2022. 

Last week In Columbus:

  1. Sunday, November 13, 2022: White nationalist group Patriot Front hangs a banner over the walkway at 4th and Capitol Street. I take a photo on my way to work at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, then call the non-emergency police number to report the banner. The police respondent first says that she doesn’t know who Patriot Front is and asks me if I know. When I tell her that, yes, I do know that they are a known white nationalist terrorist group who’d started at the 2017 Unite the Right rally and had been instrumental in the January 6th insurrection, and how does she not know who they are? 

She responds that they are protected by the First Amendment. When I ask about whether the First Amendment covered hate speech. She repeats the same tired line about free speech.

I immediately take a photo and put it up on my personal Facebook page, whatever good that’ll do.

  1. Monday, November 14, 2022: Someone scrawls swastikas and a message about lynching Black folk (using everyone’s favorite un-usable word) for good measure in a building at Ohio State. Authorities are still investigating as to who painted the graffiti.
  2. Wednesday, November 16, 2022: The Proud Boys release a flyer saying that they will attend a drag event presented at the Universal Unitarian Church on the first Saturday of December. The last two lines of the flyer read: “It’s gonna be wild! Stand by for details...”

Weeks after he lost the election – December 19, 2020 – the 45th Occupant of the White House Tweeted: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. . .Be there, will be wild!”

That “protest” was the day of the insurrection on January 6, 2021. I was in front of the Ohio Statehouse that day with a group of people countering a swath of Proud Boys, 3%ers, and Oathkeepers.

I took several photos that day while feeding the lead organizer national headlines either to inform our decisions or to taunt the alt-right mob across the street from us.

The last photo I took was at 2:11 PM. The headline that the US Capitol had been breached was at 2:13PM.

I don’t know whether “Andy” was at the Statehouse that day, but I do know that a group of Proud Boys pursued a handful of counter-protestors as we left fearing that the PBs would get more aggressive knowing that their allies 400 miles away had breached a building that hadn’t been attacked in over 200 years. In their pursuit, one of the Columbus PB’s succeeded in injuring one of the counter-protestors.    

During their first debate for the Presidency, the then-Occupant of the White House was pressed to denounce white supremacist groups. He asked, “Which one?” His opponent said, “Proud Boys,” to which the Occupant responded:

“Proud Boys: Stand back and stand by.”

The next day, Proud Boy Leader Enrique Tarrio Tweeted: “Standing by, sir.” He (Tarrio) was later arrested for burning a Black Lives Matter flag in DC on December 12 – a week before their commander-in-chief Tweeted of the “wild” day.

On Friday, November 18 this year, “Andy” sent me a text.

“David! ‘Sup buddy?”

“I know what you’re planning. Stand down.”

He then sends me a series of memes, all but one of which are unprintable in polite publications. The last of the day said, “I am a child of God.”

This past Saturday, 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldridge went into Club Q in Palm Springs, CO, and shot more than twenty people, killing five. He was subdued and will face trial. The venue is LGBTQ+ club in conservative Colorado Springs. Investigators are exploring whether the mass shooting was a hate crime.

In light of the mass shooting, I’m appalled we’re even remotely entertaining that it could have been anything other than a hate crime. No matter how innocuously worded announcements made about “attending” drag shows by groups who’ve already proven themselves to be violently dangerous, we, as a community, need to protect each other from this flailing terroristic element now threatening yet another marginalized group in America.

This past Tuesday, November 22, I received a text request from “Andy” that I ignored over a peer-to-peer server. He next texted me directly to my phone:

“Never contact me again,” followed by a cross and bones. 

I will gladly oblige, though I’ll probably see him on the first Saturday of December when I hope the community won’t be standing by that day.