Life is dangerous for many LGBTQ+ people in Texas. With the state legislature and school districts deliberately endangering the lives of trans kids, the Lone Star state is at war with its most vulnerable residents.
Making it worse are the numerous hate groups spread across Texas. Dallas, Houston, and even Austin are heavy with domestic terrorists who seek violence against queer folks and anti-fascist activists. While there are dozens of these organizations in Texas, several in particular stand out above the rest. Each has a history of specifically targeting LGBTQ+ people for violence.
The Texas Nomads are a state branch of the Proud Boys organization. The Proud Boys, founded in 2016 on a national level, have a long history of violence against peaceful anti-fascist protesters and regularly show up to riot at otherwise non-violent events.
The Proud Boys were a major part of Trump’s attempted coup on January 6th. One of their leaders, Enrique Tarrio, was sentenced to 22 years in prison for his role in organizing the insurrection. Another, Joe Biggs, received 17 years for his role. They are commonly cited as the militant front line fighters of the MAGA hate movement.
The Texas Nomads were part of 2017’s Unite the Right white supremacy rally. In the wake of this, Austin activists applied pressure through direct action. Christopher Ritchie had his apartment tagged with graffiti. Dustin Casler and Colin Whites had their workplaces notified about their terrorist activity. These efforts helped drive the group underground in central Texas.
However, the Texas Nomads continue to have an active presence within Austin’s police department and others. In 2020, several Austin police officers, such as Eric Miesse, Jonathan Herring, and Tomas Montez, were photographed standing in solidarity with the Proud Boys and Chris Ritchie. A former APD officer, Dennis Farris, even acts as a “go between” for the two groups. In addition to Austin, the Texas Nomads are active in Lago Vista, with preceding activity as far back as 2012-2013.
Atomwaffen is regarded as extreme even by some on the alt-right. While founded in Florida in 2013, its leadership shifted to Texas in 2017 when John Cameron Denton of Montgomery and Conroe, TX, took over.
In 2016 and 2018, Texas Atomwaffen targeted Austin-based queer artists and game developers with social media disinformation campaigns. Members used false accusations to try and turn uninvolved people against their targets. They tried to accuse their targets of being a danger to the public, provoking contrived moral panics. These efforts dragged in many unwitting organizations, including Ushicon, HavenCon, ChupacabraCon, Ikkicon, DriveThru RPG, and Pat’s Games, making them unintentional accomplices. Atomwaffen’s goal was to sow chaos and distrust, which was sadly effective. In a 2019 incident, an Atomwaffen member tried to get Austin Queer Bomb canceled by making a false bomb threat.
In 2020, Atomwaffen began an operation to terrorize journalists across the country. They targeted queer and BIPOC reporters who were exposing far-right hate groups. These plans included real life harassment, fire bombings, and even murder. The idea being that threats to reporters’ families would silence them. Luckily, much of their leadership was arrested before they could carry out their plans. These arrests disrupted the organization’s central structure.
While Atomwaffen was thrown into disarray, remnants of the group remain active in places such as Portland and Austin. Those behind the 2016 and 2018 operations remain active, for example. And as previously demonstrated, their skill at social media manipulation means we must be ever vigilant.
Laura Reyna (They/She) is a queer neurodivergent Latinx finding their authentic self. They are sex positive, kink positive, and sex worker inclusive, and they long for the day when every aspect of colonialism, patriarchy, and fascism are dismantled.