This terrorization of peaceful protesters we’ve seen all year has to end. (Multiple calls to action below)
Trumpers, the white militias, and racists have spent every moment since the George Floyd uprising either threatening or actually committing violence against Democrats, Black people, Hispanics, and women. Many of us have watched our family, friends, and neighbors go from someone we disagree with, to someone who is angry and hateful.
Over the last many months we’ve watched countless peaceful protests and demonstrations met with armed white militias who have assaulted protesters while screaming racial epithets.
We all know that this behavior from the white militias is morally wrong. Yet, these people did it anyway. What we didn’t know is that their behavior is also illegal.
It turns out that there are already laws on the books which could have prevented much of the violence from these far-right extremists. It’s been on the books for years. No one talks about, because these laws are not enforced. They’ve never been enforced.
Republicans keep touting to be the party of law and order, but it seems to be only when that’s convenient for them.
In 2013 S.B. 1536 passed and was signed by the Governor in June and went into effect in September. That particular bill covered several areas related to the Texas state military and veterans, but what is most important is what the bill says under Sec 437.208. It says:
Sec. 437.208. ORGANIZATION PROHIBITED.
(a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), a body of persons other than the regularly organized Texas military forces, the armed forces of the United States, or the active militia of another state may not associate as a military company or organization or parade in public with firearms in a municipality of the state.
(b) With the consent of the governor, students in an educational institution at which military science is a prescribed part of the course of instruction may drill and perform ceremonies with firearms in public. The governor may delegate the powers granted by this subsection to the adjutant general.
A person other than the regularly organized Texas military forces, the armed forces of the United States, or the active militia of another state may not associate as a military company or organization or parade in public with firearms in a municipality of the state.
Unauthorized paramilitary intimidation tactics against peaceful protests have become increasingly common in Texas. While these agitators have been saying it was in their constitutional right to take up arms, harass, and threaten mostly crowds of Black and brown Texas citizens, along with their white allies, federal courts disagree.
In 1982, the Ku Klux Klan were using these same tactics on Vietnamese fishermen on the Gulf Coast. The Southern Poverty Law Center took the KKK to court and the courts sided with the SPLC. (Vietnamese Fishermen’s Ass’n v. Knights of the Ku Klux Klan)
In fact, the same violent and intimidation tactics that white militias and Trump trains have been using against protests are the same tactics that the Klan once used. Aside from that 1982 case, these extremists’ behavior has been deemed unlawful in federal court more than once.
Other laws that these militias have been violating.
Each time when these armed white militias come out with a “show of force,” to spit on, assault, harass and threaten protesters, they always cite their reasoning as “They wanted to make sure that people kept the peace.” They say that they are there to make sure nothing gets out of hand or no rioting and looting happens.
Which brings us to Texas Penal Code § 37.11.
Sec. 37.11. IMPERSONATING PUBLIC SERVANT. (a) A person commits an offense if the person:
(1) impersonates a public servant with intent to induce another to submit to the person’s pretended official authority or to rely on the person’s pretended official acts; or
(2) knowingly purports to exercise, without legal authority, any function of a public servant or of a public office, including that of a judge and court.
(b) An offense under this section is a felony of the third degree.
Impersonating a public servant includes when a person knowingly purports to exercise, without legal authority, any function of a public servant.
It is a local police or sheriff’s duty to keep the peace or arrest people when they are breaking the law. That’s what their entire job is. When these armed militias come out to peaceful protests and claim they are there to do law enforcement’s job, they are in violation of Sec. 37.11, which is supposed to be a third-degree felony.
The Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown Law published State Constitution and Statutory Provisions related to armed private militias at public rallies. This publication listed statutes in all 50 states in which these militias, who have spent most of 2020 acting in violence and intimidation can be prosecuted.
Specifically, what’s happened in Texas this year?
One of the most dangerous and terrifying situations was on July 25th in Weatherford. That is when hundreds of armed white militia showed up to a small peaceful protest. Dozens were assaulted, called the n-word, and threatened that day.
We’ve watched it happen in Gainesville, time and time again. Oathkeepers and 3%ers have come out to intimidate, assault, and harass mostly Black peaceful protesters.
Aside from the incidents in Gainesville and Weatherford, in July armed militia committed violence against peaceful protesters in Tyler.
In August out of town militia showed up in McKinney. They were ready to go to battle with Black McKinney residents over online rumors.
In Austin, after Garrett Foster was murdered, armed white militias showed up to his vigil.
A question all rational human beings should be asking is why would an armed militia show up to a prayer vigil. That should make everyone sick to their stomach.
October in Dallas brought multiple occasions in which armed white militia showed up with intentions of intimidating and harassing peaceful protesters. We also saw militias coming out to peaceful protests in Kaufman.
And just this month, the New Braunfels Trump Train. After terrorizing minority groups and Democrats all summer, tried to run the Biden/Harris but off of the highway.
This all sounds like domestic terrorism.
In January of this year, the Texas Department of Public Safety released a Texas Domestic Terrorism Threat Assessment report. The report says white and racially motivated are the most violently active domestic terrorism type.
In every incident this year in Texas, where armed white militias showed up to peaceful protests, these protests were about racial injustice and anti-racism. These militias are showing up based on racial motivation.
The same report also says that Militia Domestic Terrorist actors typically believe that the government is failing to fulfill its responsibilities and they tend to view themselves as the keepers of the U.S. Constitution and justify force or violence as necessary to maintain American rights. Sound familiar?
In this report, DPS gave an example of this type of militia terrorism:
In September 2018, members of a Texas-based militia group clashed with counter-protesters during a demonstration at the Islamic Society of North America Conference in Houston, Texas resulting in at least one injury. Before the demonstration, members of the militia group openly discussed online their plans to attack counter-protesters.
This is the EXACT scenario which has happened repeatedly in Texas in 2020, time and time again.
The specific federal domestic terrorism law says:
All of these acts done by white militias against peaceful protests in 2020 have been intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population.
Now that it’s clear that what has happened in Texas this year from these extreme white militias… The question becomes, why hasn’t law enforcement done anything to stop it?
In Gainesville and Weatherford, activists have already outed local law enforcement for working directly with the white militias. It has also been clear law enforcement assisted these militia with the terrorization tactics against Black peaceful protesters.
Hood County Constable, John Shirley outed himself as a member of one of these unlawful groups. Edwards County Sheriffs were caught posing in a picture with the local militia. The Texas Observer also wrote about Edwards County Sheriff Pamela Elliott’s ties with this dangerous militia.
Recently the Political Research Association found that 161 sheriffs in America aligned themselves with these domestic terrorists. This month, The Atlantic published an investigative journalism report that found a Pro-Trump militia has recruited thousands of police officers, soldiers, and veterans.
Illegal domestic terrorism is happening at an alarming rate in Texas and law enforcement is doing nothing to stop it. Instead, they are letting it happen, because in most cases law enforcement aligns or is part of these militia groups.
What can we do?
The first thing you can do is sign THIS petition urging Greg Abbott to issue an executive order calling for the immediate dispersal and disbandment of all unlawful militias in the state of Texas and DEMAND that local Law Agencies use state laws already on the books to enforce said order.
Second, call your local elected representatives, whether they are Democrat or Republican, and express your concern on how these incidents in Texas this year surrounding militias have gone uncheck and unpunished. To find out who your local representative is, go HERE.
When militia activity happens in your town or at a protest you’re attending, you should be demanding police to do their jobs and enforce laws that are already on the books. If the police will not enforce these laws, then you should report the police department to your local FBI office.
Texas may still be a Republican-ran state, but we are still Americans and we should not stand to be terrorized, harassed, threatened, or intimidated by unlawful white militias.
The change starts with us.