For the last few months, Jamie Thomas has gone to the Rock Church in Virginia Beach every Sunday. He’s not there to worship. Instead, he stands on the sidewalk outside the megachurch, holding a bullhorn and chanting, “John Blanchard is a pedophile!”
The 43-year-old Thomas, who told The Daily Beast that he is driven by a mission to “stand up for kids,” has in the past devoted his energy towards protesting government overreach and events hosted by drag queens.
This time around, however, his target is John David Blanchard, Rock Church’s lead pastor.
Blanchard, 52, temporarily and “voluntarily stepped back” from his duties last year after he was swept up in an underage prostitution sting in the local area. He was arrested after allegedly driving to a motel to meet up with a 17-year-old sex worker in Oct. 2021. The teenager turned out to be an undercover detective, and Blanchard was summarily charged with felony solicitation of prostitution and use of a vehicle to promote prostitution.
Married with two children, Blanchard was released on a $20,000 bond, and court records reflect that he has been traveling up and down the country’s east coast while earning roughly $30,000 a month.
This weekend, Jamie Thomas was arrested outside Blanchard’s church. Handcuffed by three police officers, the 43-year-old was brought before a magistrate and charged with misdemeanor counts of stalking and disclosing expunged police records.
The arrest was first reported by The Virginian-Pilot, which obtained records showing that Blanchard filed a criminal complaint against Thomas at 1:44 a.m. on Sunday. The documents alleged that Thomas had come to Blanchard’s “place of work and worship” at least 15 times and had behaved in an intimidating and threatening manner.
Blanchard did not return a phone message the outlet left for him at the church on Monday.
“He has stated that he has us under surveillance and is using the ‘Starlink’ security system and knows everything we do,” the complaint said, according to the Pilot. “He has stated personal information that is not public and has repeatedly said he is looking forward to a confrontation.”
“It’s all bogus. All bogus. All false,” Thomas told The Daily Beast. He later referred to Blanchard as “a slimy coward.”
In a phone interview, Thomas said that he jokingly refers to the small team of people who contribute research to his YouTube channel, Buffaloman11, as Starlink, a seeming reference to the satellite service owned by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, “because they know everything, you know?”
Thomas is a native of Buffalo, New York, who graduated high school in Virginia Beach and currently works there. He started his channel, which boasts just over 5,400 subscribers, because “I’m totally against pedophiles. I’m totally against groomers. I stand up for kids.”
He told The Daily Beast that that ethos has led him to protests at “all these drag shows,” where he tries to “tell people it ain’t right to have kids in those adult entertainment [spaces].”
Story hour events and brunches hosted by drag queens—frequently organized by nonprofits that coordinate background checks at both the local and federal level—have drawn increasing levels of conservative ire across the country in recent months. Critics of the protesters have said that such opposition is rooted in homophobic and transphobic tropes.
Last year, Thomas also took part in the 1776 Restoration Movement, videos posted to his YouTube page show. The movement, also known as the People’s Convoy, went to protest COVID-19 mandates in Washington, D.C. Largely comprised of members affiliated with a number of right-wing groups, including the Proud Boys, white supremacists, and QAnon supporters, the convoy quietly disbanded last May.
Thomas said he began making pilgrimages to the Rock Church about four months ago when an email from a supporter alerted him to Blanchard’s charges.
“Sometimes, it’s a little bit bigger [of a crowd],” he said. “Sometimes it’s only three or four of us, which is fine. You know, one voice is loud enough to wake everybody up.”
Thomas maintains that he has only ever “peacefully protested,” and that he never crossed on the church’s property. He only saw Blanchard once, he recalled, when the pastor darted out of the church and climbed into a car.
“And all I said was, ‘Run, run, run,’” Thomas said. “That’s it.”
After his arrest on Sunday, Thomas was released without bail. He is expected back in court on May 23, but plans to be back outside the Rock Church next Sunday.
“Yesterday, I told my wife, ‘You know what? I have no fear,’” he said. “I’m not worried.”