Update: 1:20 p.m. June 20, 2019: The Houston Press has been told this event has been relocated to another facility at an unnamed location.
Texas Patriot Network and Texans United for America, two groups with ties to white supremacy, plan to attend an event called Texans Against Communism at The Woodlands Financial Group's training facility on Saturday, June 22, as part of the Latinos for Trump Conference.
As stated on the event’s Facebook page the groups believe “communism is running rampant in our great state of Texas, and “we have actual communist [sic] running for office under Democratic Party.” There are no self-identified communists currently running for nomination or office in Texas as part of the Democratic Party at this time. As I have previously stated, the term communism is mostly a scareword used by far-right groups to justify their embrace of fascism.
Both groups have unsavory reputations. Texas Patriot Network sent a group of armed protesters to the Islamic Society of North America’s conference in Houston last September. Chat logs from Zello that were leaked showed the group was looking to instigate violence without getting caught by the cops. They were thankfully outnumbered by counter-protesters, including Dr. David Michael Smith of Houston United Front Against Fascism. Smith is a semi-retired professor of political science who has taught at College of the Mainland and University of Houston Downtown, and is part of the movement to cancel the event in The Woodlands.
“If they were simply hosting country club Republicans it wouldn't be worth our attention, but [TPN] has a long history of pretty nasty activity toward Muslims and migrants,” says Smith. “They’re closely linked to Sons of Odin Texas* and other folks. TPN is not that large in terms of number. They basically just pull lots of different forces together.”
Smith says that members of his group were accosted by the Islamophobic mob last September, with some detained by police.
“It's sort of a reminder that these folks are looking to do violence if they possibly can,” says Smith. “They are armed and potentially dangerous and they’re bigots. Anti-communism is really sort of a cover for fascism. That kind of violent anti-communism is really about fascism on top of all of racism.”
Texans United for America has also participated in demonstrations with distinctly fascist overtones. They organized the 1776 Freedom March in Austin in 2017. According to Travis Putnam at the Austin Chronicle , the event featured “Alt-Knights, Proud Boys**, and Three Percenters***” as well as speeches calling for armed resistance to immigration and multiculturalism and chants of “Lock Her Up,” presumably aimed at former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Texans Against Communism is set to feature Trevor Loudon as a speaker. Loudon is a New Zealand-based filmmaker, motivational speaker, and author of books like Barack Obama and the Enemies Within and The Enemies Within: Communists, Socialists and Progressives in the U.S. Congress. In the past he has called socialism “a manifestation of mental illness or major character deficiency.” His books are mostly collections of conspiracy theories tying Barack Obama and other liberal politicians to communism through guilt by association in laughable ways. His speeches are designed to give racists a veneer of respectability through tenuous scholarship.
Joey Gibson of Patriot Prayer has also been announced as a speaker. Patriot Prayer is another group that officially disavows connections to white supremacy yet openly affiliates with gatherings rife with them. They are also the masters of instigating violent response with protesters.
Bianca Gracia, vice president of Latinos for Trump, acknowledged that Texans United For America was partnering with them for the event, but denied any association with Texas Patriot Network and claimed not to know who who they are.
"It brings out the crazies," she says. "Our crazies, the left crazies. I can't control that."
Gracia would not state whether the event was being rented from TWFG or the space was gifted by them by the organization. According to her, all attendees, including Loudon, were not compensated for their appearances and had to buy $150 tickets to attend. She would not comment on additional speakers like Joey Gibson who may be speaking as part of the Loudon portion of conference, or say whether an event called Texans Against Communism had been submitted through Latinos for Trump leadership. When asked if she endorsed appearances by groups linked to violent racist extremism, she said that she could not stop them from attending or speaking.
"We're not like the left," she says. "We don't silence people." A followup question about allowing Houston United Front Against Fascism to speak if they bought a ticket was answered with "they can have their own conference."
Houston United Front Against Fascism has been attempting to get the event at TWFG cancelled through a call/email campaign as they previously did with the Horna concert earlier this year. Smith said that when his wife spoke with TWFG, they said they had a long relationship with “Texas Patriots.” They have not responded to a request for comment by us, forwarding our request to Gracia.
"I'm sure the communists in Texas are very pissed off," says Gracia. "This is a training conference. If they want to have some extra speakers during Trevor Loudon, that's fine with me.
White supremacist groups in Houston continue to attempt to infiltrate organizations. Appearances facilitated by legitimate organizations like The Woodlands Financial Group aid that appearance of respectability. This camouflage is skin-deep, as many of these groups openly advocate violence against Muslims, immigrants, and other marginalized people. The loose affiliation among groups who express bigotry openly to various degrees allows them to shield each other and deflect attention from their united goals of violent opposition to progressivism.
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Texans Against Communism happens Saturday, June 22 at The Woodlands Financial Group, 1201 Lake Woodlands No. 4020, at 7 p.m.
*From their Facebook page: “Not to be confused with Soldiers of Odin, no matter how closely aligned our causes.” The primary cause of Soldiers of Odin is extreme ant-immigrant activism and they were founded by avowed neo-Nazi Mika Ranta. The Norse pantheon of gods is a favorite symbol of white supremacists, who apparently never actually crack a book on the subject.
**The Alt-Knights are the tactical defense arm of the Proud Boys, a group with a large number of white nationalist members. The knights are known for instigating violence at events.
***Though the National Council of the Three-Percenters have issued statements for members not to participate in events with overtly racist intentions, they have actively been involved in protesting Islamic refugees.