Feature Stories

5 Fringe Political Groups Active in North Texas

In an election year, even mainstream political parties seem a little wild. But North Texas is home to groups who are on the fringe of politics, grouped together to target the status quo. Here's a guide to some of the most noteworthy activists taking their messages to the streets in DFW. 

Blackland Prairie Rising Tide
Blackland Prairie Rising Tide formed in 2010 in Denton to protest hydraulic fracturing. They’ve been labeled anarchists, heroes and “hateful democrat protesters.” They don’t have a hierarchy in the group, but Cindy Spoon, a Denton activist, often takes center stage during media appearances and photos of the group. She says their numbers were hard to calculate, but they are part of a larger organization called “Rising Tide North America,” a climate justice group.

The North Texas’ branch of the group have been involved with protesting the Keystone Pipeline in East Texas. They recently tried to remove a city council member in Denton, but failed.

“When is civil disobedience a bad thing?” Spoon asked the Observer in May. “When did that become a bad word? When did it become a fear-mongering tactic? Civil rights movement, women's rights, when did these become such dirty words?”

Open Carry Tarrant County  Armed with semi-automatic assault rifles and flags that read “Come and Take It,” Open Carry Tarrant County members stood up for their constitutional right to bear arms on street corners and inside businesses all across Tarrant County. “Remember, an armed society is polite society,” their group members would often say. But, armed with weapons, they don't come off as very polite.

Their group members were part of a larger movement called Open Carry Texas, a political action group focused on promoting open carry law in Texas. Like its parent group, Open Carry Tarrant County found itself in the media’s spotlight on dozens of occasions, frightening some citizens and always leading to a response by local law enforcement. The group responded by participating in two other fringe groups, North Texas Cop Block and Tarrant County Peaceful Streets Project, both of whom were known to use cell phones to videotape police.

Since Texas passed an open carry law earlier this year, the Open Carry Tarrant County group has been mostly silent, sticking to social media to spread their ideology.

North Texas Cop Block
North Texas Cop Block group members could be often found wielding camcorders and cellphones to record police officers investigating crimes and making arrests. They consider themselves self-appointed police monitors, and they drove up and down the streets of Arlington, stalking law enforcement to record their interactions and upload their videos to YouTube. But group members didn’t simply record their interactions with police officers. They also tried to make citizen’s arrest for police officers double parking and for speeding yet not responding to a call. What started as a peaceful interaction began to unravel into aggravation and arrests.

The group was just one of hundreds of groups associated with CopBlock.org, a website that went live in 2010 and now is run by a former intern of a libertarian think tank called the Cato Institute. Jacob Cordova formed the local chapter. His mission was simple: Hold police officers accountable if they violated people’s rights. Membership seems relatively small on the streets, but they’ve garnered more than 4,500 likes on Facebook, which is where they are mostly active now.

Texas Nationalist Movement  This political action group can be found at gun shows all across North Texas, passing out literature about why Texas needs to secede from the Union and return to its roots as its own nation. They believe that the state’s annexation was illegitimate and began hosting events like “Come and Take It Festival” to gather signatures for the “Let Texas Decide Petition.” They say their current membership includes more than 250,000 people, which they claimed soared after former Gov. Rick Perry discussed Texas leaving the U.S. during his presidential bid in 2012.

The Texas Nationalist Movement is very active online, posting videos of their members speaking at Texas Tea Party events and memes boasting that Texas Independence's Facebook page has more likes than both the Republican Party of Texas and the Texas Democratic Party combined. They even offer a link where Texans can pledge their vote for Texas Independence.

Animal Connection of Texas
  Similar to other fringe groups on this list, Animal Connection of Texas members since 1986 have launched protests, collected petition signatures and spoken at city council meetings. Unlike the others, this nonprofit has a history of getting results. For example, they won a 4-year battle to end selling dogs and cats from city shelters to research labs. They've also joined with public education leaders to distribute Spanish-language spay/neuter information.

(Be sure to read the rest of our counterculture guide to Dallas.) 
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Christian McPhate is an award-winning journalist who specializes in investigative reporting. He covers crime, the environment, business, government and social justice. His work has appeared in several publications, including the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the Miami Herald, San Antonio Express News and The Washington Times.