A wide-ranging conspiracy theory about elite Satan-worshiping paedophiles has migrated from the US, inspiring a series of regular street protests. How did QAnon find a British audience?

On a sunny day in late August, nearly 500 people gathered in central London. It was the first event held by a new group, Freedom for the Children UK.

As the crowd marched from the London Eye to Buckingham Palace, chants of “Save our children!” echoed in the air.

The ethnically diverse crowd was made up mostly of young people and women, some with their children. At the head of the march were group leaders Laura Ward and Lucy Davis.

Ms Ward, 36, who says she underwent a “spiritual awakening” during the Covid-19 lockdown, created a Facebook group in July “to promote and organise peaceful events that raise the awareness of child exploitation and human trafficking”. It took off, gathering thousands of followers in just a few weeks.

The London march was just one of 10 rallies held across the UK, including events in Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester. A Liverpool rally drew similar numbers of people.

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