On September 24th, Saturday afternoon, the First Christian Church of Katy held a Drag Bingo fundraiser to buy supplies for transitioning youth. The event was heavily protested by a wide range of right-wing and white supremacist groups and was successfully defended by Anti-Fascists from the Houston and Katy area. Both sides were heavily attended, and small scuffles broke out throughout the event, primarily between Proud Boys and Anti-Fascists. No serious injuries were sustained by Anti-Fascist protesters and the Drag Bingo Fundraiser went on successfully without disruption.
The First Christian Church of Katy lacks access to resources that other gender-affirming institutions have that are closer to the inner Houston area. Isolated in gentrified suburbia, this island of trans-inclusivity created a fundraiser for their transparent closet, which provides clothing, makeup, accessories, and other gender-affirming items for trans, queer, and gender non-conforming youths.
Although we were able to successfully prevent fascist violence against the event, and the drag bingo happened without major complications, Saturday could potentially be a sign of what’s to come. Community defense and organizing are more important than ever to keep each other safe.
Starting around 3pm, Anti-Fascists and right-wingers began staging on both sides of the street in front of the First Christian Church of Katy. Anti-Fascists occupied the grass directly in front of the church and right-wingers staged across the street. The Anti-Fascist side was confined to a small strip of land in front of the church, with cops forcing us away from stepping anywhere on the property. The first notable event was when a group of evangelicals came over to attempt to drown out the Anti-Fascists with loud music, chanting, and speaking in tongues. They eventually were forced to move back by the police once the Proud Boys showed up. More people on both sides gradually started trickling in, and by around 5 PM when the drag bingo event began inside, there were nearly a hundred fascists and somewhat fewer people defending the church against the bigots of various stripes. The bigots’ crowd consisted of explicit fascists like the Proud Boys, Patriot Front, and the Aryan Freedom Network standing and protesting alongside Evangelicals, Trump Supporters, out-of-towners from Protect Texas Kids, the Fort Bend County Young Republicans, and traditional Catholics that had all converged from across Texas – and across the US in some cases – to harass a church fundraiser. Our side was organized by a coalition of Anti-Fascists in radical anarchist and socialist groups such as The Screwston Anti-Fascist Committee, The Space City Anarchist Organization, and The Houston United Front Against Fascism. Smaller groups and individuals such as queer Houstonians and Katyites, parents of queer people, veterans, and others also came in solidarity with queer youth and made up the bulk of the crowd.
There were various loudspeakers and sound systems on both sides, with the fascists screaming profanities and condemning us, and our side chanting and playing music. Our side held signs showing messages of support for the oppressed and resistance against those who want to see us dead, while the fascists displayed explicitly genocidal signs preaching hate and conspiracy nonsense. We received an outpouring of support from cars passing by –drivers regularly honked at us and shouted messages of support. The people of Katy showed they support tolerance and acceptance over hate and bigotry. Although the day started out hot and humid, by the time most of the protestors had left between 7 and 8, it had significantly cooled down. Fortunately, our side stayed cool with plenty of water, umbrellas, and some shade.
Fascists tried crossing the street on multiple occasions to start fights, almost exclusively associated with the Proud Boys. The more explicit fascists like the Aryan Freedom Network and Patriot Front avoided confrontation, opting instead to hide by the MAGA crowd where they could for once hold their signs in public without being run off by Anti-Fascists. Despite our smaller numbers, we were able to force the Proud Boys back every time they attempted to come over, and none were able to get past us towards the Church. At one point a group of about 6 Proud Boys came over and a minor scuffle ensued. They quickly dispersed after one was struck with a pole and pepper spray was deployed, nobody on our side was injured.
The police presence was sparse and when interventions were made it was in defense of rightwing instigators. They made no effort to stop proud boys and fascists from coming over to our side unless they were being confronted, and they were clearly unprepared for the scale of the event. On multiple occasions, after we pushed back proud boys, they’d go whine to the cops. If we weren’t there, it’s unlikely the cops would’ve done much to stop fascists from approaching the property and harassing congregants and attendees. Police yelled at leftist protesters throughout the event for crossing invisible lines in the grass where the public property supposedly ended. After the event, police followed a group of Anti-Fascists and ambushed them while they were traveling across a field to leave, claiming they were trespassing and threatening them with arrest. No such effort was made by police to follow or harass the multiple groups of fascists who also likely crossed over private property lines while marching out.
Ultimately, the drag bingo event took place safely inside the church and was a great success, raising thousands of dollars to support queer youth. Aside from right-wing Journalist Tyler Hansen sneaking inside, the attendees didn’t face any harassment or harm, and the church was successful in meeting its fundraising goal. We want to extend a huge thank you to First Christian Church Katy for choosing to continue the event despite consistent harassment and threats of violence. Now more than ever, queer people need allies who won’t back down and show true solidarity, like FCC Katy has and continues to show.
There were a number of different organized hate groups at this event, ranging from homophobic religious groups to explicitly Neo-Nazi groups as well. While they did fight amongst themselves on occasion throughout the event, generally speaking, they all protested on the same side of the event together and held space together. Some of the organized groups present at the event are listed below.
The right-wing youth wing of the Fort Bend County Republican party. Hannah Nehad (pictured far left below) is one of their most prominent members and is heavily associated with Kelly Neidert. They were the first to publicly call for a protest against this event.
Led by Kelly Neidert of Dallas, Texas, Protect Texas Kids is an anti-LGBTQ+ hate group that organizes disruptions of queer and trans events under the false premise of protecting kids.
The Proud Boys are a far-right group who have been characterized by violence and street fights against leftwing groups since their founding in 2016. They are not explicitly a white supremacist group but generally have large overlaps in membership and ideology with other fascist and white supremacist groups.
Patriot Front is an openly fascist, national white supremacist group with various chapters around Texas including Houston. They likely had members travel in from elsewhere for this event, as their Houston chapter is generally not very active.
Aryan Freedom Network is a Neo-Nazi group with a Houston chapter primarily run by Ronald Murray. Many of them have formerly organized under the name “White Lives Matter” in the past.
There was some tension between these groups, as many of the more mainstream conservatives were annoyed by AFN’s presence, but there was no real effort to push out the nazis, and many of the conservatives were chanting alongside and associating with Patriot Front and the Proud Boys.
What this means for the future
Although we succeeded at protecting this event and keeping each other safe, nobody should be complacent. This event may be a sign of resurgence for the far right and the street-level cooperation between rightwing moderates and open fascists that has not been seen since the early Trump era. Saturday was the largest gathering of fascists in Houston we’ve seen in a long time, and even more significantly it was a gathering of multiple fascist groups who typically only host private rallies with their own immediate membership. Multiple groups from across the right united to threaten a peaceful event, and this is just part of a growing trend across America. This event also showed how violent bigotry against queer people is increasingly mainstream among conservatives. As mentioned earlier, this event was originally announced by a group officially affiliated with the Republican Party after Don Huffines, a Texas politician and failed governor candidate with ties to white supremacist Groypers, posted in opposition to this event. Although there were some disagreements among the protestors and certain individuals such as Kelly Neidert officially “disavowed” the more explicit fascists in attendance, this event still shows an increasing link between mainstream conservatives and violent neo-nazis and fascists. As one counter-protestor with a megaphone put it, “isn’t it weird how every time you [Kelly Neidert] show your face in public, Nazis show up?” Whether the mainstream conservatives want to admit it, they are united with nazis and fascists in wanting to see all queer people dead. We’ll almost certainly see increased violence and terrorism against queer people while Republican politicians continue to legislate against our existence.
The situation isn’t hopeless, though. Opposing this will take all of us. Voting won’t save us – if we want to keep our queer friends, loved ones, and neighbors safe, we have to oppose fascism and bigotry however we can. We strongly encourage everyone reading to start taking action. We need to begin reaching out to spaces holding queer-affirming events to make sure they’re safe, join existing groups working against fascism and create new ones, create networks to support queer people, and train in self-defense and hand-to-hand combat to make sure that when fascists bash us, we bash back. The threat to our existence is daunting, but as long as we fight with love in our hearts, we can keep each other safe, just like we did on Saturday.
For more details about the cycle of rightwing violence from social media to news networks to local fascist groups, visit this link.