Men take down anti-immigration banner in Fort Worth
Police issued a citation to a 19-year-old alt-right leader in connection with the distribution of hate speech posters throughout downtown in October.
During a city council work session Tuesday, Chief Deputy Robert Alldredge said the man was given one citation for placing signs, banners, stickers and other objects on public property without permission, which is a misdemeanor. The citation carries a maximum fine of $500.
Officer Buddy Calzada identified the man as Thomas Ryan Rousseau. Rousseau is the leader of the group Patriot Front, an alt-right, white-supremacist group based in Texas, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
Police worked with the city’s legal department to find the ordinance they could cite Rousseau under, Alldredge said.
Rousseau is known for leading Vanguard America Texas during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
On Oct. 4, fliers were posted around downtown Fort Worth with statements such as “Reclaim America” and “Better dead than Red” above a Communist symbol.
The Patriot Front took responsibility for the fliers on its Twitter page.
When asked at the council work session about protecting first amendment free speech versus hate speech, Alldredge said it depends on the interpretation of the person reading it.
”For us it’s a fine line that we walk,” he said.
He added that speech is protected as long as it does not incite violence or attack a particular group.
”We still kind of have to protect the rights of everybody,” he said.
Fort Worth police reviewed surveillance footage that showed Rousseau sticking the fliers around downtown on Oct. 4, Alldredge said. Police mailed him a citation and confirmed he received it.
The department did not capture video of a banner declaring “deport them all” hung from the Morningside bridge on I-35W on Oct. 2. The bridge, near West Berry Street, is in a primarily Hispanic area, according to Fort Worth demographics.
After the hate speech incidents, which were two days apart, grassroots groups said they were disappointed that city officials did not speak out against the posters and banner.
Mindia Whittier, community organizer for United Fort Worth, said Fort Worth “has created an environment where people feel it’s acceptable.”
“These are types of hate events that have to be met with very swift and definitive messages to denounce them to make sure people know they are not acceptable in our community,” she said.
Mayor Betsy Price said in a prior interview that she did not want to legitimize those who propagate hate by drawing attention to it.
“We don’t want to be the platform for a hate group,” Price said. “It’s outrageous, it’s awful.”
Alldredge said the stickers were placed at the following downtown locations:
- Main Street and 1st Street on a city fire hydrant
- 220 E 3rd Street at the AMC Palace Theatre on a movie poster
- 500 W 3rd Street on a lamp post across from the Central Library
- 501 Houston Street on a newsstand near Jos A. Bank
Alldredge also encouraged people who see signs or banners they believe are hate speech to leave them alone and call police. Removing them impedes their investigation, he said.