Call them alt-right, or Nazis, or whatever keyword you like. Houston has seen a disturbing trend in high profile bigotry over the course of 2018. The most recent was an invasion of people at the West Alabama Ice House that started chanting literal Nazi slogans. You can see a video of that here. There’s also been a meme making the rounds regarding a University of Houston student and teacher’s assistant named Cole Richard Jones who associates with the neo-Nazi Patriot Front group. This all just within the past summer, not to mention a possible hate crime beating of Christopher Bradford committed in alt-right polos, the white power desecration of the Rothko Chapel and the open displays of white supremacy by concert goers at White Oak Music Hall.
Meanwhile, not in H-Town, the Nazis are continuing to get organized. A second Unite the Right Rally is being planed in Washington D.C. You’ll remember the first turned fatal when a white supremacist drove his Dodge Challenger into the crowd, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 more.
It’s quite reasonable to assume that Houston will not escape having its own shameful gathering of bigots. The reactionary, racist right of our city was already tricked into action once by trolls posing as Antifa activists wanting the removal of the Sam Houston statue in the museum district. Smaller, but infinitely more embarrassing, we had protestors show up to yell at elementary school children attending Houston Independent School District’s first Arabic-immersion campus in 2015.
The question is, what the hell is the city going to do when the inevitable rally happens? The right to assemble is one of the most fundamental protections in the United States constitution, but that doesn’t mean that things should proceed completely unregulated.
This is of particular interest to Free Press Houston. We put on a lot of events. We can’t have a band play on a stage or a barbecue without making sure that every propane tank in the vicinity is a certain distance away from each other, that access to water is available and that security is maintained. Nor should we be allowed to if rules aren’t followed.
Why should such things be held to standards that white supremacist rallies don’t seem to be? Is it because they have the blessing of being “political” and therefore more sacred than getting the Suffers to play?
At the very least, we should expect the authorities to prepare for the guns. I don’t think that I’m breaking any new ground when I say that some of the people marching in the name of white supremacy are likely to be armed. Being Texas, I expect the counter-protestors to be armed as well. Contrary to popular belief, liberals pack heat, too.
What is Houston’s plan if two angry mobs clash with weapons at their sides? I know they have the right, but just because someone has a right doesn’t make bystanders less dead if that right gets abused. Isn’t an assault rifle at least as hazardous as misplaced propane tanks in the middle of a riot?
This is not speculation. This is something that the city is going to need to have a plan for.
I remember going to the Galleria after Mike Brown was killed and finding myself in a protest. People marched up and down the halls and streets yelling, “shut it down for Mike Brown.” Outside there were cops on horses. I explained to my wife that the horses were there to crush through a crowd if they had to, juggernauts.
Is this response written down in a rule book for when the Nazis in our own region decide to exercise their right to be heard? Or does that only apply when non-whites make people uncomfortable?
I have to tell you, I don’t really have any confidence in our authorities to be prepared for this possibility. In Portland, the cops already made their preference of protecting the alt-right at the expense of others clear when they started hurling flash grenades. Are Houston cops better than Portland ones?
There’s this misguided idea that Antifa and counter protestors are the real threat, up to the fact congress is currently considering legislation to put them in jail that doesn’t apply to the white terrorist organizations. The fact that anti-fascists tend to be anti-authoritarian probably has something to do with it. It’s logical that the police and the Blue Lives Matter crowd might feel under attack.
However, the rise in open supremacy is a legitimate threat to everything that makes Houston great. It has to reside at a higher level of caution than cops feeling sad. I want to know for a fact that our police force is briefed on these groups, their methods, their motivations and what their presence means.
The alt-right can march. That’s their right. Letting them do so in a blind hope that it will not turn into another Charlottesville is madness. The city better have a plan for the possibility or blood is going to be on their hands. The Nazis are coming. What exactly are we going to do about it?