“America is Our Birthright,” declared a banner hanging from a footbridge at the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2017.

“Deport them All,” read another unfurled in a mostly Hispanic neighborhood in Fort Worth last year.

“Keep America American,” said flyers passed out in Round Rock in June.

Since 2017, more than 230 incidents of hateful propaganda have been reported in communities across Texas — a phenomenon that has dramatically escalated this year, according to the Anti-Defamation League, a nonprofit that tracks extremist activity.

One group is responsible for more than two-thirds of the hype: Patriot Front, a Texas-based white nationalist group formed after the deadly “Unite the Right” rally two years ago in Charlottesville, Va.

Members of the group insist their European ancestors conquered America, and that people of color, including Hispanic immigrants, are a threat to the white race. The same message appeared in an online manifesto by the gunman accused of killing 22 people with an assault-style rifle on Aug. 3 at a Walmart in El Paso.

The shooter wrote that his attack was “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas,” and he criticized “race mixing.” He told police after his arrest that he was targeting Mexicans.

It was the most recent hate-fueled mass killing and another sign of a resurgence in white nationalist ideology in America.

In October 2018, a gunman opened fire in a Pittsburgh synagogue during Shabbat morning services, killing 11 people. In May 2018, 10 people were gunned down at Santa Fe High School near Houston by a suspect who reportedly posted photos of himself wearing a Nazi symbol on his coat.

Three months before that, 17 people were killed at a Parkland, Fla., high school by a suspect who etched swastikas into some of the ammunition magazines he used in the massacre.

“We have seen an increase of reports of individuals who express a desire to commit violence — definitely,” said FBI Special Agent Mic e Lee of San Antonio, referring to white supremacists.

After the massacres, the FBI saw a noticeable uptick in the number of reported threats, Lee said. It’s unclear whether the public is simply more aware of the need to report threats, or if people with extremist ideologies are more active after they become inspired by acts of violence.


Birth of a hate group

White supremacists soon decided to take their movement offline and into the real world.

One of the hate groups that demonstrated in Charlottesville was the neo-Nazi organization Vanguard America. At the rally, James Alex Fields, a white supremacist, plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer, 32.

After Heyer’s death, a Dallas-based member of Vanguard America, Thomas Rosseau, rebranded the organization to escape scrutiny. He called the splinter group Patriot Front.

Today, the group has at least 300 members, and Texas is home to its largest chapter, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Since 2018, Patriot Front has been linked to more than 870 reports of racist propaganda across the country: more than 40 percent of all such incidents in the country.


One day after the El Paso massacre, the American Iden y Movement tweeted an image of its logo on a poster outside the municipal building in Allen, Texas — the hometown of the El Paso shooter.

Both groups aim to recruit new members with patriotic language. Sometimes, their flyers aren’t overtly racist. Instead, the groups are trying to insert themselves into mainstream conservative politics, said Hill of the Anti-Defamation League.

Many of their flyers are printed in red, white and blue, with phrases such as “Reclaim America” and “NOT STOLEN CONQUERED.”

“I can only assume that it’s part of the optics to present themselves as American patriots, as opposed to white supremacists,” Hill said.

Erik Sailors, a Texas leader of Patriot Front, is a former Marine, according to The Daily Beast. Contacted by a reporter last week at his San Marcos home, Sailors cracked open the front door and looked out, then quickly shut the door.


Patriot Front also has descended on the Alamo.

In 2017, the group handed out flyers to passersby on the River Walk. In polo shirts and khakis, about a dozen masked men organized in front of the Alamo, yelling the Nazi slogan, “Blood and Soil!”

It isn’t the only hate group to center on the Alamo. The Texas Nationalist Party, which lists the same post office box as a Klan group, says on its website, next to a photograph of the Alamo, that the state is losing its history. The site echoes extremist and mainstream rhetoric: “Stop the Invasion!” and “Make Texas Great Again.”

White supremacy also has seeped into local debates as the city has sought to transform the Alamo site in recent years.

Last year, the City Council heard from members of This is Texas Freedom Force, a local pro-Confederacy and gun-rights group that opposed both the removal of a Confederate statue in Travis Park as well as a plan to relocate the concrete-and marble Cenotaph, a memorial to Alamo defenders.

One of the group’s members, Krystal Ross, asserted that the “real point” of moving the Cenotaph is “to water down Anglo-Saxon history,” according to minutes of the meeting.

Ross “pointed at me and said, ‘You’re trying to get rid of white history,’” said Councilman Roberto Treviño, whose district encompasses downtown San Antonio. “And at that moment, I had several council members turn to look at me and say, ‘Holy (expletive), there it is.’”

During the debate over whether to remove the Confederate statue, someone sent Treviño an angry note that referred to him as “Mex.” The councilman keeps the note on his desk under glass in his downtown office.

“It’s important for me to remember that these things exist, and I can’t be naive,” Treviño said, adding that he has lost count of the death threats made against him, especially as debate drags on over plans for extensive renovations to the Alamo site.

“My executive assistant will tell you, there are people who would just call her and tell her that they want to kill me, and hang up,” he said. “It does feel like it’s escalating. The fact that it happened in El Paso, not only did I get the feeling that it’s something that can happen here, but I’ve had others calling me, telling me the same thing.”