A movement of extremist thinkers and wannabe conservative influencers launched itself into the anti-immigrant fray on January 29, when a convoy they organized began its official journey to the US-Mexico border in Texas, California, and Arizona. Beginning in several states as far away as Virginia, their goal was to grow to thousands of vehicles and descend primarily on Eagle Pass, Texas to supposedly “bring awareness” to the situation at the US-Mexico border.
However, the issue isn’t what they make it out to be. Thanks to language across all news media platforms like “illegal immigrants” and “crisis” when talking about asylum-seekers, the far-right feels that their suggestions of an “invasion” are legitimate. Add elected officials like Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Republican Governor of Texas Greg Abbott using the same rhetoric extremists use, and the country inevitably ends up where it is today.
Former President Donald Trump chimed into the feeding frenzy bolstering fears of terrorists crossing the border, an idea that we debunked months ago and continue to follow up on even today. Despite that, the false notion continues to add to worries in white America leading to the growing conspiracy theory that Gov. Abbott, and by extension the State of Texas, are in some kind of a “standoff” with Joe Biden – a narrative all major news outlets helped promote.
The largely Latinophobic anti-immigrant rhetoric has been growing for some time on far-right platforms and broader social media channels – leading to dangerous ideas of a ‘civil war’ against the government. Since the Supreme Court’s decision that allows Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to cut through and remove razor wire placed under Gov. Abbott’s order if needed, social media exploded with ideas of violently defending Texas.
While many see the Texas National Guard placing more razor wire along the border as the state being defiant against the Supreme Court and the president, the reality is neither of those is true despite what people like Beto O’Rourke say. The decision did not order Gov. Abbott to stop placing barriers. Nor does it have anything to do with the president. It simply allowed CBP to do what’s needed to fulfill its duties. Yet, many began promoting the #IStandWithTexas hashtag on social media and threatening violence.
Enter, the Take Our Border Back (TOBB) convoy…
Extremists On the Way
The convoy isn’t the first group to arrive at the southern border. Historically, extremists like David Duke from the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) popularized the idea in the 1970s. Before him, the KKK would regularly hold anti-immigrant rallies dating as far back as the 1920s. However, after 9/11, the idea of armed militia groups patrolling the border became an industry funded by donors across all classes of white conservatives who fear people unlike them.
In the aftermath of the largest terrorist attack on US soil in history, a group known as the Minutemen began their efforts to target immigrants. The group calls itself “a Citizens’ Neighborhood Watch on our border” and extrajudicially targets migrants and claims they’re only there to track the “flow” of migrants entering the country. Despite the vast majority of migrants turning themselves into CBP to claim asylum – as required by law – and internal strife, the group continues today and has spawned many other groups since.
In 2008, Minutemen leader Jim Gilchrist lamented the direction of the anti-immigrant groups he inspired. Gilchrist spoke to the OC Register saying, “In retrospect, had I seen this, had I had a crystal ball to see what is going to happen … Am I happy? No. Am I happy at the outcome of this whole movement? I am very, very sad, very disappointed,” said Gilchrist. “There’s all kinds of organizations that have spawned from the Minuteman Project and I have to say, some of the people who have gotten into this movement have sinister intentions.”
Gilchrist echoed some of the same rhetoric former KKK leader David Duke once used and is still in use today saying, “It’s an ‘invasion’, but it’s not a war. It is a covert Trojan Horse invasion,” Gilchrist continued. “I have found, after four years in this movement … I very well may have been fighting for people with less character and less integrity than the ‘open border fanatics’ I have been fighting against.”
Of the groups presently at the border that Gilchrist laments are Patriots for America, Women Fighting for America, Arizona Border Recon, and many so-called ‘reporters’ capturing video with GoPros. All of these are intent on continuing to escalate the rhetoric over a border “crisis” that is anything but driving hate against primarily Latino immigrants.
Show Them The Money
The last time we witnessed a trucker convoy was in 2022 when American truck drivers tried to duplicate the Canadian trucker protests over vaccine and mask mandates. Labeled the “People’s Convoy,” it didn’t see the success they wished they would have due to funding for the drivers. Only providing funding to pay for a truck driver’s fuel to Washington DC and not for their trips back home forced many truckers to skip participating.
The group that financed the US convoy to the Capitol was the American Foundation for Civil Liberties and Freedoms (AFCLF), a non-profit. At the time, The Daily Beast reported that the AFCLF had raised nearly $500,000 as of February 2022. The non-profit peddles various conspiracy theories around the pandemic and helped raise money for election deniers. Chris Marston, the AFCLF chair has ties to Gen. Mike Flynn of QAnon fame who assisted in funding the “People’s Convoy” through his affiliated non-profit, The America Project.
While it’s unclear if the AFCLF is helping fund the TOBB convoy, the organizers have been raising funds on various platforms such as GiveSendGo and many have direct ties to Gen. Flynn. What’s different about this convoy are the militia groups that are associating themselves using the #IStandWithTexas hashtag on social media. Many supporters of Gov. Abbott’s feigned defiance of the Supreme Court have expressed violent language across all platforms.
Of the more dangerous groups to join the TOBB convoy is Active Club, an offshoot of the now-defunct white supremacist group, the Rise Above Movement (RAM). Active Club mimics the Fight Club movie plot and is billed by its founder as the “premier MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) club of the alt-right”. Active Club has known associations with avowed neo-Nazis, the Proud Boys, and Patriot Front. They operate their own media arm called Media2Rise and have a merchandising/fundraising branch titled Will2Rise.
The organizers of the TOBB convoy also include Robert Agee who owns a billboard business and is known in Texas for raising $160,000 for an anti-vax billboard in Waco. Mark Istratoff is a former real estate broker from California and Scotty Sax does a show on local radio in San Diego called Sovereign Radio. Kim Yeater, host of the Take Your Power Back Show podcast also has direct ties to Gen. Flynn who is the lone sponsor of her show.
Funding comes easy for these groups who also participated in anti-mask protests that were funded by some of the wealthiest people in the US, including Betsy DeVos, Trump’s former education secretary, and the Mercer family who also funded the far-right social media platform Parler. Using their own money along with outside money means they’re likely well-funded.
In a recent article, VPSReports published chat logs from the TOBB Telegram and Discord group chats listed on the TOBB website by its organizers. While the conversations started with declarations that they intend to peacefully protest, the group’s overall attitude has grown more violent. Despite some organizers continuing to declare they intend to be peaceful, when addressing the media they ignore that they are attracting violent extremists.
From neo-Nazis to conspiracy theorists that peddle racist “white replacement” conspiracy theories, there is no question that many joining the TOBB convoy are dangerous. The ZeroHedge article mentioned in the above posts from the TOBB Telegram group is yet another example of the type of people headed to the US-Mexico border in Eagle Pass, Texas, Yuma, Arizona, and San Ysidro, California.
Their primary gathering location will be Eagle Pass in support of Gov. Abbott’s so-called “defiance” of the Supreme Court and President Biden. There is talk of providing “support” to the Texas National Guard and they are endorsed by various politicians including Texas State Rep. Keith Self who made an appearance on Fox Business and declared that they expected 700,000 vehicles to descend on Eagle Pass – an outlandish and unrealistic number.
As of this writing, the TOBB movement is in Texas approximately 30 miles from the US-Mexico border on private property where they plan to hold prayer vigils and media events to be broadcast across social media platforms. Meanwhile, Gov. Abbott will be holding a border security press conference at Shelby Park on Sunday with 14 of the 25 governors who support his grandstanding.
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