Dallas County

QAnon Cultists Are Still in Downtown Dallas Weeks Later, but No One Can Say for How Long

Jacob Vaughn
QAnon followers seem to have settled into Dallas for now.
Sure, Aaron and Carly were wary to say too much — like everyone else at the QAnon gathering in Dallas, they wouldn't even share their full names — but they beamed with excitement.

They're in their mid-thirties, and they left behind a business and their apartment in Mexico City to come spend their days in Dealey Plaza.

“We’ve been following, you know, truth online for years now, but we just decided that for this, we should be here," Aaron said. Carly nodded along, just as psyched.

They upended their former lives to follow the teachings of Michael Brian Protzman, a former Washington-state businessman working in demolition.

Known for his Telegram channel Negative48, Protzman amassed a 100,000-plus following on the social media app by spreading the conspiracy theory that the long-dead president John F. Kennedy and his son, JFK Jr., were about to reappear in Dallas.

After that, the father-son duo would reinstate Donald Trump as president. At the same time, they would set in motion the mass-persecution of the secret global network of liberal, Satan-worshipping, pedophilic liberal elites and politicians that forms the basis of the QAnon conspiracy world.

Protzman managed something many other leaders within the QAnon movement had not: He convinced hundreds of people like Aaron and Carly from across the world to flock to Dallas to witness the event.

“It took me almost a week to get here,” said a man named Ken. He wore a Trump 2024 baseball cap and a shirt with John F. Kennedy’s face on it. "I had to fix my car up in Texarkana. but you know, now I’m here."

Of course, the elder Kennedy was assassinated in Dealey Plaza in 1963. JFK Jr, his son, died in a light plane crash in July 1999.

A follower of Protzman’s dismissed JFK’s assassination as fake. “Joe Biden’s been dead for almost two years,” he said. “So has Mike Pence. Why do you think the fly landed on him at the debate?”

**

One day in late November, Protzman's devotees were gathered in the lobby of downtown Dallas’ Hyatt Regency Hotel, a vaulting, glass-encased structure (adorned with design set pieces and fine art that Protzman’s followers have snapped photos of as evidence of the deep state’s secret signaling, present even at their home base).

Just visible above the heads of about a dozen followers was Protzman, a purple linen scarf wrapped around his neck, deep in conversation with whoever was lucky enough to be at the front of the line.

The group gathered in Dealey Plaza when Protzman issued the order, and then later returned to the Hyatt Regency to wait nearly all monthlong for further instructions. They have lined the streets along the parade route where JFK was shot and killed. They have held candlelight ceremonies.

"It's about a heart connection. Chest to chest." - Michael Brian Protzman follower in Dallas

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Several times, Protzman predicted a specific date on which JFK and JFK Jr. would show. Even though they've yet to make their appearance, Protzman's followers keep hanging around, holding ceremonies and turning up in Dealey Plaza and along the parade route.

Miraculous presidential reincarnation or not, Protzman hasn't slowed down. He has continued preaching to his devotees in hotel lobbies and at the plaza.

One of those followers gave her name as Kelly, explaining that she had made the journey from Minnesota to be present for Protzman's prophecies. "He's wonderful," she said. "He's what we call a truth-teller. And us, we're all called truth-seekers."

For the most part, Protzman's teachings hit on all the standard QAnon talking points: the supposed child sex-trafficking, the Hollywood elites, the bizarre belief that Trump was on a clandestine mission to save children from pedophiles.

That said, his delivery is unique. Protzman communicates in strings of numbers, using a simple system that assigns digits to the letters of the English alphabet (a = 1, b = 2. You get the idea.)

"This kind of connecting the dots was very common in this world before Protzman," said Michael Rothschild, author of The Storm Is Upon Us, which examines QAnon's rise.

"These are people who believe that they are fighting in a secret war between good and evil and that this war is not conducted between armies," Rothschild explained, "but it's conducted through attacks in public, for distracting purposes, to advance a certain narrative."

The second time the JFK duo never showed up at Dealey Plaza, Protzman's Telegram channel shifted attention to another conspiracy theory. Just a few days after a car slammed into a crowd and killed six people at a holiday parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, an administrator on the channel suggested the whole attack had been orchestrated by President Joe Biden.

"If you feel you have secret knowledge, you’re feeling you’re unlocking something, while everyone else has been duped." - Heidi Beirich, Global Project Against Hate and Extremism

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“I just found this posted Patriots," the post read. "Was Waukesha a FALSE FLAG?” (It's unclear if Protzman is the only administrator on the channel, and he couldn't be reached for comment.)

Whoever it was, the administrator insisted they were only retyping a post from someone who had been present at the parade that night. They didn't explain how a witness would be privy to such a nefarious plot by the president, nor did they specify where the original post had been published.

The post went on to draw a series of connections between Biden a numbered entrance at a school near the parade route, and the approaching anniversary of JFK's assassination on Nov. 22. Within hours, the wild-eyed claim had been viewed more than 15,000 times. Meanwhile, a sixth person, a child, died from injuries sustained during the attack.

It wasn't first time QAnon-affiliated public figures have tried to capitalize on mass murder to fabricate evidence for their belief system. Long before he had a QAnon to latch onto, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones claimed that the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut had been a hoax.

Jones, who runs the conspiracy theory website InfoWars, lost a defamation lawsuit brought by the parents of the late Sandy Hook children last month. (He had claimed, in part, that they were crisis actors hired to help advance progressive political policies like gun control.)

“It is completely within the realm of this line of thinking that the Waukesha Christmas parade incident can't just be what it is," Rothschild added. "It has to be something bigger."

**

At Dealey Plaza a day before Thanksgiving, Protzman's followers wouldn’t say whether they believed the Waukesha killings were Biden's handiwork and stayed quiet on the veracity of Jones' Sandy Hook claims.

When asked how they felt about JFK’s failure to reappear the day before, though, several said they remained faithful that his return was imminent. “Not everyone will see the truth,” said another follower from South Dakota. “But those people like us, those with curious minds, we will find it,” he said.

Heidi Beirich, an expert on far-right extremism and cofounder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, has seen this type of recalculation time and again. “If you feel you have secret knowledge, you’re feeling you’re unlocking something, while everyone else has been duped,” she said.

Beirich said some of the eagerness amongst Protzman’s followers to flock to Dallas likely comes from the months of isolation the pandemic has inflicted. But she maintains that the pandemic “explains some but not all of it, because this really all got started long before the pandemic.”

Extremism researchers and family members of Protzman followers expressed alarm last week when Protzman appeared to agree with participant in a call who said, “Ultimately ... we have to experience that physical death ... let go ... come out on the other side.”

The Dallas Police Department said in an email that "the department has limited contact with the group. At this time there is no significant reason this group should be a cause of concern."

Rothschild said the group's steadfastness in downtown Dallas is a "fairly disturbing evolution."

“QAnon was originally a totally online movement, or maybe 10 people at a restaurant with a couple Q T-shirts," he said. "But now these people getting together in person, not hiding it at all. It’s taking an online movement, and making it much more of a real-life community."

"This kind of connecting the dots was very common in this world before Protzman." - Michael Rothschild

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Meanwhile, Vice News has reported that Protzman's followers are having their phone calls and text messages monitored by Protzman's closest confidantes. Some have also been coerced into consuming a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and probiotic supplements, family members of the QAnon cultists told Vice.

Protzman hasn't replied to the Observer's requests to explain what his endgame in Dallas is, but there's little doubt it will be worrisome.

Either way, the QAnon group shows no sign of leaving anytime soon. The day before Thanksgiving, a black Jeep SUV skidded to a stop outside the Hyatt Regency. Protzman and several members of his cohort crowded around the Jeep's trunk and unloaded heaps of groceries and supplies onto luggage carts, wheeling them into the hotel.

A woman who was in her mid-fifties and from Delaware announced to the others that there would be a "mandatory" meeting in the Hyatt's basement conference room later that night.

“It’s about a heart connection, and loving each other,” she told the Observer, offering a hug. “Chest to chest.”