A few weeks ago, a group of out-of-town activists told their followers they were going to make a "mighty impact on Dallas" by marching through downtown on Saturday, "spreading the joys of straight pride" to all who would hear.
On Saturday morning, three people showed up.
The march had, in fact, been canceled, but that didn’t deter two members of Super Happy Fun America from making the trip from Massachusetts to livestream themselves being shouted down by Antifa in front of City Hall.
It was an absolute waste of a beautiful Saturday morning for everyone involved.
By noon, almost a dozen uniformed and plainclothes cops were on hand to protect the demonstrators from counterprotesters and an Observer reporter who simply wanted to know why the three men had even bothered to show up.
They didn’t have anything better to do, it turns out. Brandon Navom and the group's vice president, Mark Sahady, had already booked their flights.
Soraya Colli, treasurer of the Dallas Stonewall Democrats, described the scene in front of City Hall later in the afternoon. “The 2 SHFA organizers were hilariously outnumbered by pro-LGBT & anti-fascist protestors - and about a dozen police. Much later, they were joined by a member of the Dallas Proud Boys and a woman named Princess Vanna who claims she converted from lesbianism after finding God,” she wrote on Twitter.
The event was organized by Teresa Stephens Richenberger, the SHFA's “newly appointed spiritual adviser,” who lives in Liberty City. She spoke at their Straight Pride Parade in Boston earlier this year. The Massachusetts-based group promised to return the favor by attending her march in Dallas.
She had to cancel the event, however, when she found out organizers would have to pay a fee for police protection and garbage cleanup.
Dallas’ “ministerial overlords” were going to charge them $15,000, said Navom. In a video posted online before the event, Sahady called the fees “highly illegal” and said the group was not giving up and was “bringing the fight to Dallas now.”
The Observer reached out to the city, which acknowledged the request for comment but as of press time had not responded.
Local activists responded swiftly to the initial announcement of the march. The DFW Anti-Fascist League organized a counterprotest titled “Silence = Death” and wrote on Facebook, “We refuse to allow this hate speech to inspire more violence against our LGBT community.”
Lee Daugherty, co-chair of the North Texas chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, was one of the counterprotesters. He acknowledged the humor of the rally's low turnout but cautioned against downplaying its dangers.
“Some people say, ‘Oh just ignore them and this can be over,’ and that’s dangerous,” Daugherty said.
Daugherty credited the work of anti-fascist activists for discouraging participation in their events, citing comments on Navom's livestream by supporters who said they were scared to show up out of fear of being identified and losing their jobs.
Rod Webber, a Boston-based artist, filmed a documentary about the movement's leaders titled "The ‘Oppressed’ Majority." He called them "dangerous trolls" who, under the guise of defending free speech, associate themselves with Holocaust deniers and white supremacist organizations.
"The core group is more interested in trolling the left," Webber said. "I wouldn't call them raging neo-Nazis, but they don't mind working with them to achieve their objectives."
The organization, according to Webber, has handed out thumb drives with instructions for building homemade weapons. Sahady also has reported ties to the Proud Boys, which is designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Navom, meanwhile, has sued Boston's mayor for slander after he allegedly characterized Navom as a neo-Nazi.
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Unfortunately, this story might not end here.
“We’ll definitely going to be back,” said Samson Racioppi, SHFA’s treasurer. “We either need to litigate the situation in court or reapply and come up with the fees."
But Daugherty isn’t worried.
“They had 180 up in Boston. They had 20 in LA. And now they’re down to two in Dallas," he said. "I hate to break it to them, but this little movement they’re trying to start, it’s already over."