“The [Patriot Front] stickers have popped up here and there over the last few years but with relative infrequency,” said a Dallas activist who wished to only be identified by their Twitter handle, ProtestMomDFW. “In the last few weeks it seems to have become more frequent, especially since the insurrection on the Capitol.”
ProtestMomDFW said they worked on countering the efforts of hate groups for years, pushing back by any means necessary. “This current sticker campaign that we have begun literally covers the efforts of Patriot Front and brings awareness that we are watching too,” they said. ProtestMomDFW gave stickers to anyone who wanted to help cover up the group's propaganda.
“Myself and others I work with believe that the best way to combat the efforts of these hate groups which uphold ‘traditional values’ that are rooted in white supremacy and advocate for the enslavement or expulsion of non-whites and non-Christians is with mutual aid, striking back at their fascist mindset on a localized level, helping fellow humans,” she said.
The Anti-Defamation League, as well as the Southern Poverty Law Center, identify Patriot Front as a white supremacist group.
“It’s that kind of thought process where they are the victim in all this.” – Carla Hill, Center on Extremism
Their propaganda campaigns are an anonymous way to spread the message, according to Carla Hill, senior investigative researcher at the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism. The hope is that it will help with recruitment, but the main goal is to gain attention and incite some sort of response. The ideal recruit? Young white men who feel other races, ethnicities and genders are given an unfair advantage over them. This is why they have an affinity for targeting college campuses.
“It’s that kind of thought process,” Hill said, “where they are the victim in all this.”
She said only white, non-Jewish men are allowed to be members of the group. A membership application form on Patriot Front's website asks would-be members, among other things, what their political ideology is and what their religious beliefs are.
If the group had its way, Hill said only white men would be in charge. But this ultimate goal isn’t as obvious in their propaganda and rhetoric. It’s hidden, which is why Patriot Front is so dangerous, Hill said.
Patriot Front splintered from Vanguard America, a white supremacist group, which, in part, organized the Unite the Right rally in August 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia, that resulted in the death of a 32-year-old anti-racist activist named Heather Heyer.
Vanguard America was run by a guy named Dillon Hopper. But in the fallout from the Unite the Right rally, the leader of the Texas chapter, Thomas Rousseau, took over and rebranded as Patriot Front. Hill said Rousseau had been trying to take over the group for some time before the deadly rally.
Rousseau grew up in North Texas, attending Coppell High School where he wrote for the student paper The Sidekick. Writing columns and contributing to video productions for the paper seem to be how he cultivated his knack for crafting propaganda, according to the SPLC.
As Vanguard America, the group’s white supremacist views were more blatant. This was also the case for Patriot Front in the early days. However, the group has since rebranded to make its supremacist rhetoric look like patriotism.
“It’s a new kind of white supremacy,” Hill said. “It’s all red, white and blue propaganda.”
Though it's disguised, Hill said the hate is just below the surface of Patriot Front. You can see it in their own words on the ADL website. “We acknowledge the disproportionate and detrimental influence of the rootless Jewish community in America, and seek to counteract them,” the group posted on Twitter in 2017.
When it comes to disseminating propaganda, Hill said Patriot Front is far ahead of any other group in the country. And because of its Lone Star roots, Texas membership remains one of the largest in the U.S.
The ADL tracks hateful, extremist, antisemitic and terrorist incidents through a resource on their website called the H.E.A.T. Map. There are several different incident types and there’s a filter for ideology. The map allows people to find reported incidents anywhere in the U.S. back to 2002.
In Dallas, there were 32 reported incidents of right-wing white supremacist propaganda from 2020-2021. Most of those came from Patriot Front flyers and stickers. The three not put up by Patriot Front came from Hundred Handers, an international white supremacist sticker producer. Patriot Front also accounted for a majority of these reports in Fort Worth and Denton.
While they've gotten good at making their mark with fliers and stickers, Patriot Front is known for more than its propaganda. They're sometimes armed and violent too.
In 2018, Patriot Front members stormed and vandalized an "Occupy ICE" protest in San Antonio, threatening the activists as they left the scene.
The next summer, the group held a flash protest outside Denton's Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studio, where an anarchist book fair was being held. "Reclaim America," they chanted in a video of the incident.
To Hill, Patriot Front is leading force in America’s fractured alt-right movement. She said the nuance of the group’s message makes it easier for them to recruit and indoctrinate people.
“It’s kind of how they alt-right worked in the first place,” Hill said. “You start with this crude humor and it’s OK to be a little racist and make some jokes. ‘Oh, we’re just kidding.’ Then there’s this gradual pull into a more extreme ideology. That’s the danger of it.”
Without any contact information listed and a statement on the group’s website that says they don’t talk to journalists, Patriot Front preemptively declines to comment for the media. On the group’s Gab page, though, they post updates on their propaganda distribution. According to the page, Patriot Front posted more propaganda in Dallas in just the last two days.
Hill said it's dangerous to just let groups like this grow.
"The reason we want to speak out against it, identify it and call it what it is, is so that the community can stay on the same page, stay together, work together, speak out against these things, so minorities and people within our communities feel they are not alone, that they’re supported," Hill said. "When you have that kind of fear in a community it’s sad, it’s dangerous, it’s not a healthy community."