An anti-LGBTQ activist reportedly told police that “God” was responsible for a recent power outage in a rural North Carolina county that left about 45,000 households without power.
The power outages were caused by vandalism of two electrical substations in Moore County, starting between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday night, with one substation going dark, shortly followed by the second.
Authorities said that a person or group appeared to have intentionally fired multiple gunshots at the substations, damaging multiple pieces of equipment and triggering the blackout.
“The person who did this knew what they were doing,” Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields said in a press conference on Sunday, during which he confirmed the damage was done by a firearm. “It appears they were trying to shut the county down.”
Fields declined to elaborate on how many gunshots hit each substation or whether the attack was captured on video, citing a need to protect the investigation, reported the News & Observer, a Raleigh-based newspaper.
Not long after the outage, a conservative activist made a cryptic post on Facebook stating, “The power is out in Moore County and I know why.”
The author of the post, Emily Grace Rainey — who has become known for espousing conservative causes including opposition to drag-themed events — claimed in a subsequent Facebook post that “God will not be mocked.” The post included a photo of The Sunrise Theater in Southern Pines, N.C., where “Downtown Divas,” a drag show, was slated to be held at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
There is no evidence to suggest that Rainey was in any way connected to the attack, or that the attack on the power substations was related to the drag show, Fields said during his Sunday press conference.
Rainey later made a third post on the issue, claiming that the Moore County Sheriff’s Office had come to her house to ask about the outage.
“I welcomed them to my home,” Rainey wrote. “Sorry they wasted their time. I told them that God works in mysterious ways and is responsible for the outage. I used the opportunity to tell them about the immoral drag show and the blasphemies screamed by its supporters. I told them God is chastising Moore County, thanked them for coming, and wished them a good night.”
Rainey later made a fourth post threatening to sue people for libel if they reported that she was connected to the attack, while also standing by her assertion that God was involved in the power outage.
“I stand by everything I have said. God will not be mocked,” she wrote. “Because of lukewarm Christians and public displays of blasphemy and immorality in Moore County many innocent people are suffering.
“God uses bad people (like the Babylonians in 598 BC and whoever shot the power station) to chastise a people or a region. We brought this on ourselves.”
The sheriff’s office is working closely with the State Bureau of Investigation and FBI agents to investigate the attack on the power substations. No group or individual has come forward to claim credit for the attack, prompting Fields to call the perpetrators “cowards.”
Due to the power outage, a countywide state of emergency was declared, and county officials imposed a curfew for all residents from 9 p.m. Sunday to 5 a.m. Monday.
As of Sunday night, roughly 35,000 households remained without power, according to Duke Energy. Duke Energy said in an earlier statement over the weekend that it may take until Thursday to repair the damaged equipment and restore power across the county.
Due to the power outage, cellphone and Internet service were largely unavailable throughout the county. Homes with electricity-powered wells had limited water, and schools in the county were closed Monday, with future closures to be determined on a day-by-day basis, a representative for the county’s school system said.
According to The Washington Post, at least one local pharmacy had to store medicine in the refrigerator of a resident with a generator.
“An attack like this on critical infrastructure is a serious, intentional crime and I expect state and federal authorities to thoroughly investigate and bring those responsible to justice,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said in a tweet.
I have spoken with Duke Energy and state law enforcement officials about the power outages in Moore County. They are investigating and working to return electricity to those impacted. The state is providing support as needed. – RC
— Governor Roy Cooper (@NC_Governor) December 4, 2022
Investigators have yet to find concrete evidence tying the drag show to the power outage.
Protesters had gathered outside the Sunrise Theater to protest the drag show on Saturday prior to the show, claiming the event — which was initially billed as open to “all ages,” but later clarified as being limited to audience members over the age of 18 — was an attempt to “groom” or “indoctrinate” children into being LGBTQ.
Other opponents of the show claimed the performers were “pedophiles,” and allegedly made threats of violence toward the theater and the performers. The theater beefed up security prior to the event, but did not cancel it.
Drag queen Naomi Dix told The Washington Post that she was introducing a dance duo when the lights went out midway through the drag show, which had started around 7 p.m. At first, she didn’t think dimming the lights prior to a performer appearing on stage was unusual, but then someone informed her that the power was out.
Dix said that due to the hostility in the run-up to the event, some participants immediately suspected that the event had been targeted, but she attempted to keep the 320-member audience calm while organizers figured out what was happening.
Dix told the audience members to turn on their cellphones’ flashlights, and began singing Beyoncé’s hit song “Halo” while the flashlights illuminated the stage. The show continued for about another 45 minutes.
“Us continuing with the show, even if it was for 45 minutes, shows that the fight is going to continue, and the fight is getting stronger,” Dix recalled telling the audience.
Despite the sheriff’s warning that there isn’t any evidence linking the two, that hasn’t stopped speculation about the timing of the drag show and the attack on the power stations.
“It’s kind of scary to think that hate for a drag show could have brought on the attack,” Monique Baker, an attendee of the drag show and a mother to children who identify as LGBTQ told the Post. “Especially since the show was so full of love. Hopefully, that isn’t the case.”
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