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Illustration: Jon Han/Bloomberg CityLab

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When QAnon Stormed City Hall

Followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory and other far-right extremist movements have set their sights on local offices. Now a small Washington town is facing a battle for the community's future.

In a way, the shake-up inside Sequim City Hall was typical in the annals of modern NIMBYism. For months, the residents of Sequim (pronounced “Skwim”), a town of 7,200 on the coastal plain of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, had been battling over the construction of an opioid treatment clinic. On Jan. 11, the mayor — whose sympathies are known to lie with the clinic’s opposition — called a motion at a city council meeting to remove the longtime city manager, who’d played a role in approving the facility.

But this wasn’t the usual small-town infighting over local development. Mayor William Armacost had raised eyebrows months earlier for sharing far-right memes and links promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory on Facebook; in August, he’d defended QAnon on a local radio show. So when the mayor, presiding over the Zoom meeting with a “Blue Lives Matter” Punisher skull pinned to his lapel, tallied the 4-2 vote in favor of ousting city manager Charlie Bush, some Sequimites saw something more sinister. As chronicled in a  Twitter thread by local writer and political strategist Matthew Randazzo, the episode looked like a Leslie Knope version of what had happened on the steps of the U.S. Capitol days earlier: attempted government takeover by once-fringe extremists.