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Shawn Vestal: Organizer of drag queen protests clings to delusions of persecution

Ruby Heath, left, dances with drag queen Tirrany Hex, right, and other children at the conclusion of Drag Queen Story Hour on June 15 at the South Hill Library. The leader of the group mobilized to protest event published a piece at the Federalist on Thursday. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Ruby Heath, left, dances with drag queen Tirrany Hex, right, and other children at the conclusion of Drag Queen Story Hour on June 15 at the South Hill Library. The leader of the group mobilized to protest event published a piece at the Federalist on Thursday. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

They were billed as Drag Queen Story Hours.

But they’ve turned out to be more or less endless as outrage fuel for those whose devotion to a sense of themselves as mighty, persecuted Christian martyrs is bottomless.

The lingering fever over these events at Spokane libraries went national this week, when the leader of the group mobilized to protest them published a piece at the Federalist, a key home for alternative facts. It argued, among other things, that the Spokane justice system is devoting its energy to persecuting a minister for his religion instead of trying to catch the serial killer.

The serial killer? you ask.

What serial killer?

Is it possible that Anna Bohach, the Chicken Little of Spokane who gained fame in the fever swamps of America by making the specious argument that drag is akin to blackface, got her facts wrong?

Just kidding. Of course she did. But heaven forbid anyone should try to get between Bohach’s ilk and their sense of their own persecution.

There ain’t any daylight there.

Like there ain’t a serial killer on the loose.

“No,” said Sgt. Terry Preuninger of the Spokane Police Department, when asked if there was an investigation into a serial killer, or even a series of murders that police might suspect are linked. “No. Not that I know of.”

Preuninger emphasized that he was also not keeping quiet about a serial killer case for investigative reasons, as sometimes happens.

Bohach’s piece in the Federalist is focused on the arrest and court case of a Spokane minister at the Drag Queen Story Hour in June at the South Hill library. Because lots of folks showed up to demonstrate for and against the event, police had separated them into different areas. There had been a lot of hot talk online about the event, from both sides, and it included things that made police concerned about potential violence.

Preuninger said in such cases, the department tries to keep opposing protest groups apart to avoid incidents.

“We keep them separate so no one gets punched in the chops,” he said.

The minister, Afshin Yaghtin, who is a regular at protests around town including the so-called Church of Planned Parenthood, tried to leave the protesters’ area and go into the library, and resisted the efforts of officers to stay among the other protesters.

Bohach said he was trying to go into the library and quietly pray.

Video of his arrest shows him saying to an officer, “In my day, when I was a child growing up in the U.S.A. … do you know what the police would be doing? The police here would not be stopping me. They would be arresting them. They would be arresting perverts dressed up as women.”

Ah, yes, the glory days of arresting “perverts.” This very Christian attitude, Bohach asserts, is what police and prosecutors were really punishing when they arrested him for obstructing a police officer.

“Why,” she asks plaintively in her Federalist piece, posted Thursday, “is the city so intent on going after a Christian exercising his constitutional rights? How dangerous can Christian ideology be that the city will invest so many resources in prosecuting one man for allegedly obstructing the police rather than into investigating rape or murder? Does the City of Spokane Prosecutor’s Office have an anti-Christian bias?”

Here’s the weird thing about this case of tragic Christian persecution: Yaghtin, uh, won.

He was arrested. He went to court. And the case was dismissed, with the judge affirming that he was exercising his First Amendment rights.

Heck of a persecution, Brownie.

The city apparently intends to appeal the case. The basis for that appeal was not immediately clear, but it frankly doesn’t seem very urgent that the case be appealed. Yaghtin’s First Amendment rights in this case should be vigorously defended, even by those of us who thinks he’s as wrong as someone claiming Spokane has a serial killer, and they were. By a city judge.

To Bohach, though, it’s all of a piece. Rapes and murders are going ignored so the system can engage in ritualistic persecution of the faithful.

“Currently, Spokane is ranked third most dangerous for property crimes nationally, and 649 rape kits are awaiting attention, an opioid crisis is raging, and a serial killer still hasn’t been caught,” she writes, “yet the city attorney’s office is determined to throw the book at a pastor who had an opinion about a sexist minstrel show being performed for children.”

This is florid nonsense. The rape kit backlog would not be affected in any way by the actions of a city police officer and the municipal court system. Same for the opioid crisis.

And the serial killer claim is just wrong. Bohach says she based it on a 2017 report by KHQ in which family members of a murder victim speculate that the killer might be associated in another unsolved murder – a speculation for which neither police nor prosecutors offered support.

Bohach argues the prosecutor in the case is biased against Christians, because he referred to “religious loonies associated with a case I’m prosecuting” in a Facebook post.

I’m not sure that was a wise thing for the prosecutor to post, though he was commenting not on the defendant but on the people who speak up on his behalf.

But when it comes to the drag queen Chicken Littles, he wasn’t wrong. For evidence, check out Bohach’s piece in the Federalist, and the hundreds of unhinged comments below it.