It started with the sound of running feet. When Christopher Bradford turned to look, a fist came out of the dark and landed on his face in what appears to be an anti-LGBT hate crime in Montrose.
Bradford was leaving Barcode, a popular LGBT nightspot, in the early hours of Wednesday, Aug. 1. He was on the phone walking at Taft and Westheimer when the attack started. After the first punch was thrown, another man tackled Bradford to the ground. That’s when the beating began in earnest. Three men continued to assault Bradford with fists, boots, belt buckles and finally rocks.
“I was screaming ‘why?’” says Bradford. “What did I do?”
Bradford says his assailants were all wearing white polos. The white polo shirt has become something of a signature look for the alt-right and other hate groups. Before the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer was taken offline, white polos were sold as apparel in keeping with founder Andrew Anglin’s decree that the white supremacy movement needed a more cultured look. Many of the white power marchers at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last year wore the polos. That was the same rally in which one woman was killed and 19 injured when one of the attendees, a white supremacist named James Fields Jr., drove a Dodge Challenger into the crowd.
As the attack progressed, Bradford could hear women who were with the men laughing. Luckily, the person who he was on the phone with heard the attack as it happened and raced to the scene where he threatened to call the police. The women attempted to take his phone, but eventually the group ran, leaving Bradford on the ground bleeding.
“Obviously, they knew what they were doing,” says Bradford.
He was not alone on the street when the attack began, he says, but no one else stepped in to stop the three men from administering their brutal beating. Bradford, who eventually made it to Memorial Hermann, was left with a bruised back and a head that was split open in two places. Staples and glue were required to close the head wounds, and Bradford suffered some brain bleeding. He was in stable, responsive condition when I briefly interviewed him by phone on the evening of Aug. 1.
One of the suspects in the brutal beating was picked up by police and released on bond, says Bradford. Reportedly, the man was angered by a man exposing himself to his girlfriend.
Bradford recounted the attack in a Facebook post that has since gone viral in part because of the gruesome pictures of his injuries.
“It’s no one’s place to pass judgement on if someone belongs on this earth or not,” he says in the post. “These guys almost took my life from me, they almost took my life from my daughter. And for what? Because of hatred in there [sic] heart?”
Open displays and acts of white supremacy and alt-right bigotry are on the rise in Houston. Unknown persons vandalized the Rothko Chapel earlier this year, splashing the Broken Obelisk dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr. with white paint and leaving flyers saying “It’s okay to be white” on the property. Last month, there was an altercation at White Oak Music Hall after a trio of attendees showed up to a concert sporting white power clothing (though not the polo shirts). They were accosted by James McDowell II of Gen Why, who threw a drink at them. The trio was escorted off the property before a fight could break out.
Exactly what motivated the attack on Bradford is currently unknown, but the attackers’ choice of clothing and the fact that Bradford was assaulted after leaving a prominent LGBT establishment seems unlikely to be a coincidence. If the perpetrators turn out to have affiliations with the alt-right then Free Press Houston will not be in the least bit surprised. Regardless, Bradford encourages people on the streets in Montrose to stay alert.
“You have to defend yourself,” he says. “It’s 2018, but people will still attack you for who you are.”