The King Street Patriots' headquarters is tucked into a mostly-deserted strip mall in northwest Houston, just beyond the 610 Loop and next door to Demaris Barbeque. Monday night was the final pre-election meeting of the controversial right-wing organization.
A lot has been written about the supposed Tea Party spin-off group, which has taken it upon itself to "True the Vote" -- preventing or indicating acts of voter fraud throughout Houston -- per the vision of the groups' founder, Catherine Engelbrecht. However, in carrying out its purpose, the group had been linked by the Democratic Party and various media outlets (Hair Balls included) to poll watchers who have been accused of voter intimidation at minority group polling places.
KSP had vehemently denied any involvement or particular training of poll watchers to involve themselves in the voting process. The news has been labeled a smear campaign, courtesy of the liberal media. While reporting a previous post about the voter intimidation incidents, calls were made to KSP and its attorneys for comment and clarification, but our calls were not returned.
We figured if we were to best understand the King Street Patriots, we'd have to walk into the lion's den -- a place Hair Balls certainly wouldn't be welcome.
After some difficulty in finding the location, Hair Balls came upon this scene in the darkness: a one-story building, with a long, illuminated glass window and a "King Street Patriots" banner hanging from the roof. Through the window, nearly 200 people stood in rows, heads down, appearing to be in prayer.
Two security guards stood outside the front doors, giving us a quick glance upon approach. In the lobby was the group's name once again, in larger letters, along with the image of a "patriot," bayonet over the left shoulder. A woman was sitting at a desk and smiled as we entered. No questions asked. The meeting had already begun, with over 200 people filling the basketball court-sized space. Most were white, along with a handful of African-Americans. The majority were middle-aged to senior citizens.
We took a seat in a black folding chair toward the back, just behind three individuals with inside-out John Faulk T-shirts. Another man, with a grayish-blonde ponytail, a few rows ahead wore a T-shirt that read "I helpedTrue the Vote
in 2010 and all I got was this lousy t-shirt and aFree and Fair
election" on the back.
We weren't in Montrose anymore.
Engelbrecht was front and center, microphone in hand; an attractive woman with blonde, Kirsten Gillibrand-like hair (with more volume), an alluring confidence, and soothing voice. The crowd looooved her.
On the wall behind her, the "Principles of Liberty (Part 2)" were listed in white pen. So too were the definition of King Street Patriots and True the Vote.
Over the course of the 50-minute gathering, she talked about the voter-intimidation accusations, blaming the "left blogosphere" for irresponsible journalism. The core purpose of KSP was preventing voter fraud. "Are you for voter fraud?" she asked of liberals. "Yeah, they love it!" one man in the audience yelled. Applause followed.
Hair Balls wanted to raise its hand and ask further questions, but we decided we'd rather keep a low profile and not find ourselves in someone's cross-hairs.
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Engelbrecht went on to discount the rumors that the group had used illegal means to fund the group: "They don't believe that we raised the money ourselves," Engelbrecht said, "they don't believe that we pass the cowboy hat." With that, cowboy hats were passed amongst the crowd, soon to be filled with five-, ten- and twenty-dollar bills.
The subject that intrigued us the most, and the one that excited the crowd most, was what was to happen to the King Street Patriots after Nov. 2. The answer: "This is just the beginning." The group has gathered national attention: "The eyes of the nation are on Houston and what we're doing here," Engelbrecht said. "We didn't mean to go national ... we thought we were just cleaning up our own backyard."
The evening closed with the singing of "God Bless America" and the announcement that KSP would be celebrating election day at the Rice Lofts Ballroom. And that Ezra Charles would be performing.
Hours from now, we'll know if all the attention and effort was worth the time and news headlines.