The ISNA is generally considered the largest event held by American Muslims as a group, and is an opportunity for various parts of Islamic America to mingle and network in order to promote and address issues important to the community. Two Democratic presidential hopefuls will be in attendance this year as part of a forum: Bernie Sanders and Julián Castro. According to Jasper Scherer of the Houston Chronicle, other candidates and President Donald Trump were also invited.
In general, the ISNA conference is a non-controversial gathering of leaders among the 3.45 million American Muslims, but for the Texas Patriot Network it’s an encroachment on American ideals that must be met with armed resistance. The Facebook event page reads:
"Once again the Terrorist Fundraiser by the Muslim Brotherhood under the fake title as ISNA is coming to Houston and again Texans will stand against this tyranny. The event takes place alongside Discovery park facing the GRB center, Open Carry is allowed."
A poster in the group, Raul Esparza of South Houston, commented:
"thats whats up blow meca off the face of the earth it pisses off the musloms thats what george w bush should of did he showed the enamy mercey couse he is methadist they deastyoed the twin towers tride to hit the white house and pintagan george said on the radio we are not going to harm meca couse its a realigeos town thats week i would deastoyed there pilgramige to me to meca one of there seven pillors that they would be able to complete i would dig up mohameds grave and use his body for dna reaserge if i was geoge w bush i would the musloms hate me for giveing the juhad realigen war the should have never invited to i whould gave them the blues" [sic]
The protest is presented in conjunction with The Amazing Doc Greene show. On the show’s Facebook page is footage of a previous altercation where protesters screamed at attendees to denounce their religion and embrace Christianity. Greene is known to promote Obama birther conspiracies and anti-vaccination nonsense.
Leaked chat logs from Zello showed that last year, when Texas Patriot Network protested, members informed each other of possible targets to assault once they were isolated, and calling them "dead meat." Several targets, including political science professor David Michael Smith, were singled out in the audio logs. Texas Patriot Network members warned each other of a “dyke” HPD officer who they thought might be trouble. The audio also contained sexist and racist slurs.
The group made headlines earlier this year when they organized an anti-communist rally alongside members of Latinos for Trump, Patriot Prayer, Proud Boys, and Texans United for America. Backlash from the event forced it to move from the Woodland Financial Group facility where it was originally scheduled after anti-fascist protesters exposed various ties to white supremacy. The event eventually went on, with speakers using slurs, calling Michelle Obama a man, and reading from Pat Buchanan’s white nationalist manifesto The Death of the West. In 2017, Texas Patriot Network also showed up at protests to voice support for SB4, the state bill granting increased power to the police to question people about their immigration status. Keri Blakinger of the Chronicle reported that the right-wing side of the protest eventually devolved into them hurling fat jokes at the left.
As usual, various Houston anti-fascist groups are planning to attend. They have generally outnumbered Texas Patriot Network and other affiliated groups. According to a spokesperson for the Houston Socialist Movement and Houston United Front Against Fascism, they will arrive early in the morning and until “when the fascists leave.” Some members also plan to be armed, and they will play Arabic, Mexican, and Central American music in order to drown out Texas Patriot Network and Greene. Hopefully it will, as misguided bigoted yammering should not mar a gathering that celebrates the diversity of both Houston and the country. Protesting Muslims for the sheer act of existing and assembling, as well as calling the event a “terrorist fundraiser," is an unfortunate reminder that racist and fascist elements continue to be active in the city.