Texas confrontation reflects increasing aggression by far-right groups organized for violence against protesters.
Seemingly following in the footsteps of similar far-right groups such as Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys, a small cluster of masked activists from the openly fascist group Patriot Front this weekend invaded and briefly vandalized an “Occupy ICE” protest encampment in San Antonio, Texas.
Chanting “Strong borders!” “Strong nation!”, the group of about a dozen members of the Texas-based neo-Nazi organization descended on the encampment, located outside an Immigration and Customs Enforcement processing facility, at about 8 a.m. Saturday. Most of them were masked with American-flag kerchiefs and hats.
The men briefly attacked a corner of the encampment, kicking over banners and coolers before walking away while continuing to chant. Some of them carried a flag featuring a fasces, the symbol of Mussolini’s Italian fascist movement.
Afterwards, a post was published on the Patriot Front blog: “Activists confronted assorted enemies of the nation which had created a makeshift campsite outside of an ICE detention facility to impede the efforts of officers seeking to process and deport criminal aliens from the country,” it read.
“It is no surprise that one of the few wings of government left that provide tangible benefit to the nation would be under such direct assault by those who would see America turn into a continent-spanning slum. The crass calls for freedom by these would-be revolutionaries amount to nothing more than a desire to be free from order and civilization, and to be given to vice and corruption,” it continued. “Patriots nationwide stand testament to the fact that the time has passed where chaos will stand unopposed.”
“We really just had to stand back,” an Occupy ICE member identified only as “Mapache” told the San Antonio Express-News. “They outnumbered us five-to-one, so we pretty much stood back and allowed them to take their videos and to attempt to tear apart the camp — though ultimately, after maybe two minutes at most, they had brought down one canopy but (then) left it alone.”
“Mapache” told San Antonio blogger Kit O’Connell that the damage was minimal, and the camp was back up and running within a couple of hours: “Ultimately, they didn’t do much damage.”
Two days before, a small group of Patriot Prayer activists in Portland, Ore., had invaded a similar “Occupy ICE” encampment outside the city's Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility. The left-leaning occupiers were there to protest the agency’s family-separation and child-detention policies, inspiring a number of similar encampments at ICE facilities around the country.
In that confrontation, the far-right activists were unable to gain access to the camp, all while insisting they were only there to “talk” to Occupy ICE protesters. It eventually devolved into mutually threatening verbal exchanges, though most of the protesters in fact were absent from the scene at the time.
The aggressive street tactics featuring threats and violence are consonant with the rhetoric emerging from numerous sectors of the radical right, primarily Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys, who are planning a potentially dangerous rally in downtown Portland on Aug. 4.
A number of far-right activists preparing for the Saturday event have discussed the possibility of violence with open eagerness. They’ve also spoken of a broader vision of more such groups deliberately invading urban areas where far-left antifascists and anarchists have an established presence, with the clear intent of provoking a violent response that they see as permission for their own eliminationist violence.
Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson told his followers in a Facebook video last week, talking about the upcoming Portland event: “We will go in there, we will protect ourselves, and we will make sure the entire country sees what is happening in Portland, in Seattle, in Berkeley, in San Francisco, because the rest of the country, if they don’t wake up and begin to make change, begin to stand now, they’re going to wind up just like Portland.”
Gibson continued: “Of course, we all know Portland is the laughingstock of the country. Everyone knows that except for people within Portland itself. Even Oregon itself absolutely hates its own city of Portland. It is disgusting. … This is why it is so important that we go into Portland with freedom-loving Americans, people who love this country, people who love freedom, people who respect God, and to go into these dark cities.
“We cannot continue to just hide in our houses or just go into the safety of a conservative city, or a city where the police are doing their job. We need to go straight into hell with our brothers, with our sisters, having each others’ backs, putting out the fires and bringing light, bringing light into these cities.”
While Patriot Prayer is primarily organized around its opposition to the political left and attracts a number of antigovernment activists and far-right militiamen, and the Proud Boys are more of generic all-purpose hate group organized mainly for engaging in violence, Patriot Front is an overtly neo-Nazi organization that embraces fascist philosophy.
Organized as an offshoot of the neo-Nazi Iron March forum and Vanguard America, its primary organizer is a young Texan named Thomas Rousseau, who may have been among Saturday’s cluster in San Antonio. The group, however, is nationwide in its reach, though it is primarily known for plastering fliers around various cities and towns around the country, as well as organizing brief freeway-banner displays of fascist-oriented messages.
Prior to Saturday, it’s had relatively little street presence, outside of small protests at various locales in Texas organized by Rousseau.