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Monday, June 10, 2019

Houston, TX: Antifascists March on Home of Alt-Right Organizer

By Texas Antifascist News - June 10, 2019 at 02:34PM

The post Houston, TX: Antifascists March on Home of Alt-Right Organizer appeared first on It's Going Down.

After long time neo-Nazi organizer and local real-estate agent Paul Preston was outed by Screwston Antifascist Committee, a group of antifascists organized a march on his Houston, Texas home while handing out flyers and talking to neighbors.

On June 8th comrades from Dallas and Austin joined Houston antifascists as they confronted fascist organizer and podcaster Paul Joseph Preston at his Near Northside home.

As they marched the antifascists informed appreciative residents about Paul Joseph Preston, aka “Wooderson”. Conversations were held in both Spanish and English about Preston’s participation in the deadly Charlottesville rally, his work with Identity Europa, and his predatory real estate practices.

The bloc stood outside the home chanting slogans like, “Good night, alt-right / We know where you sleep at night”. Passing motorists slowed down to show support and received further information about Wooderson and his fascist girlfriend, Ariel Gherman.

Two anonymous antifascists walked to the door, gave it a knock (it was unclear who was present) and taped flyers to the window.

Antifascists on the march.

Police arrived on the scene shortly and so did Wooderson, driven by a friend in a red truck with a trailer. Unable to park in front of the house, the friend clumsily drove down a dead-end street to the backside of the property owned by Paul Preston, only to find they were being followed by the masked crowd. Making a clumsy reversal, the truck returned to the front and Wooderson quickly jumped out and darted for his front door

Many had expected Paul Preston, known for his macho posturing online, to begin a confrontation with the antifascists upon exiting. Instead, he changed directions and slunk inside his home under the watchful eye of HPD.

The look of fear and shock on his face will be remembered by many, with one Austin comrade humorously remarking, “the look on that coward’s face when he was all fucked up in that dead end will fuel me.”

Paul Preston observes the scene in fear and disbelief.

An HPD officer quickly followed Paul Joseph Preston to the house and was invited inside by Ariel Gherman. It then became clear she had been present for the entire event and likely called the police. The presence of the cops did not dampen the antifascists’ mood and the chanting continued. Drumming on a plastic barricade by some creative comrades set off the alarm on Ariel Gherman’s car, adding to the din.

Ariel Gherman invites the police inside. Paul Preston is by this point hiding within.

Police made hostile statements and asked if a leader of the antifascists would step forward and speak. The only response was a chant of “cops and Klan go hand in hand.” They then helpfully removed the flyers from Paul Preston’s porch, since Preston was apparently unwilling to step outside or even look out the window.

Errors and Missteps

While the action was undoubtedly a resounding success, there are always lessons to be drawn. Firstly, less visible staging and debriefing areas should be utilized where possible. Secondly, more organized and rapid movement between locations would leave less room for potential attacks from cops or fascists.

An opportunity was arguably missed when the entire antifascist bloc followed Wooderson’s truck down the cul-de-sac and back, thinning the ranks. This was done under the assumption Wooderson would be entering his second property at the end of the road. In retrospect, some antifascists might have remained to guard the front entrance of the home while others followed the truck. On the other hand, splitting the bloc might have made police retaliation more likely.

These are minor criticisms of an overwhelmingly successful action.

The Enemy Retreats, We Pursue

Between this home demo in Houston, and the actions by various groups against Dustin Casler as well as those targeting “Texas Nomads” in Austin, it seems Texas antifascists as a whole are taking an increasingly proactive approach. While cities must be defended against fascist rallies and marches, fascists cannot be allowed to dictate the time, place, and manner of struggle.

Having been shut down and blocked time and again, many fascist groups in Texas no longer have the appetite for publicly announced rallies. In a desperate attempt to avoid defeat they have largely shifted to “flash demos” that are coordinated among their membership in secret.

They are finally realizing that hiding and sneaking will not save them, because antifascists are taking the fight to their front doors.

Background Info on Neo-Nazi Houston Realtor Paul Preston from Scewston Antifascist Committee

To see full report with photos, go here.

Paul Joseph Preston, often using the aliases Whit Wooderson and Woody White, is a co-founder of a local white nationalist organization known as the Houston Goylers, and a frequent contributor to the Alt-Right podcast Exodus Americanus. He has participated in numerous white supremacist and Neo-Nazi rallies including the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017, the attempted disruption of the Houston Anarchist Bookfair in 2017, and the attempted disruption of Bingo Against Borders in 2018, among others. He works in real estate and holds a Texas real estate license. His license is sponsored by Applied Real Estate Technologies, LLC, which does business under the trade name ListingSpark. Paul lives with his white nationalist girlfriend, Ariel Gherman, in Houston’s Near Northside neighborhood where he owns a house.

Paul Joseph Preston is one of the two original founders of a Houston-based Neo-Nazi organization called the Houston Goylers. The name is an antisemitic play on the name of the old Houston football team, the Houston Oilers. Goy is a Hebrew word that was historically sometimes used to refer to non-Jews, and is often used today by white supremacists and Neo-Nazis today to emphasize how not-Jewish, and in fact how anti-Jewish, they are. Among Houston Neo-Nazis, the Goylers are generally regarded as the “main guys” who organize as explicit white supremacists in Houston, alongside Patriot Front. In 2016 the Goylers boasted a membership of around 25 people, with about 10 of them reported as being highly active according to Paul Preston, though it is unclear if they have maintained the same membership over recent years.

Paul Preston uses the alias Whit Wooderson online (and variations like “Woody White”), and credits himself as “one of the founders of Chad Nationalism” as well. Like many other Alt-Right terms, Chad Nationalism is really just a meme-based rebranding of white nationalism, centered around building up one’s identity as an “alpha male” as featured in Chad memes online. Under his Whit Wooderson alias, Paul is also an administrator to the “Boartex of Power” Facebook group, which serves as a private social group for the Alt-Right talk show “Exodus Americanus”, a channel on “The Right Stuff” (TRS) fascist podcast platform.

On top of just talking on The Right Stuff podcasts, Paul helped organize “TRS Pool Party” meetups around Houston. These are basically just real-life social meetups for Alt-Right Nazis who listen to or are involved in the podcasts, but they have played a role in networking different fascist groups together and bringing in new members. Paul also joined the white supremacist group “Identity Europa” when they were around in 2016, and put up some of their flyers around Houston which FreePress Houston reported about at the time.

Paul Preston marches in Charlottesville on left, and on right, displaces a swastika pin, hangs out with Azmador from the neo-Nazi website, The Daily Stormer, and also takes part in disruption of SURJ event.

In 2017, Paul traveled to Charlottesville to participate in the Unite the Right demonstrations that culminated with James Field’s deadly car attack. During Friday’s torch-lit march, Paul could be seen dressed in a white polo shirt and khaki pants–the uniform of the now-defunct white nationalist group Vanguard America. He held hands and walked with his girlfriend Ariel Gherman (who sometimes uses the alias Ariel Sherman). You’ll remember last year we exposed Ariel for renting the house that the Texas Neo-Nazi contingent stayed in during their trip to Charlottesville. After our expose, Ariel was promptly fired from her job at a right-wing graphic design and media strategy firm, Harris Media (which has its own ties to international fascism), and soon after moved back to her hometown of Houston, where she took up residence with Paul. 

In the summer of 2017, Paul attended a white nationalist “Texas is Ours” rally in front of the Texas Capitol in Austin. With his organization “The Houston Goylers”, Paul participated in the attempted disruption of the Houston Anarchist Bookfair in September 2017, alongside Patriot Front and other fascists. He also was one of the white nationalists who attempted to disrupt the SURJ Bingo Against Borders event at a Houston bar in August 2018. He was caught on camera daring onlookers to “Take my picture, try to get me fired!” Aside from trying to disrupt various left wing events, the Goylers focus mostly on physical fitness training and do a lot of group activities in private, such as going on “Hate Hikes” with Patriot Front members and other Nazis.

Realtors, White Supremacy, and Gentrification

Paul and Ariel live in a house Paul owns in the Near Northside, a historically Latino and Black neighborhood in central Houston, just north of downtown. It was the site of the 1978 protests and rebellion following the police murder of Jose Campos Torres. It’s also a neighborhood which, like much of inner loop Houston, has been struggling with gentrification and displacement, especially since the construction of the Red Line MetroRail in 2013. Additionally, the Near Northside has been the base of Paul’s real estate business activities. 

Paul currently holds a real estate license sponsored by Applied Real Estate Technologies, LLC, which does business as ListingSpark. It’s unclear whether Paul is an employee of ListingSpark or just an independent contractor. In either case, Texas law makes ListingSpark legally accountable for all the actions of the agents it sponsors. Sponsoring the license of an open Neo-Nazi like Paul or any of his associates therefore creates a huge liability for ListingSpark or any other sponsoring brokerage. 

The Fair Housing Statement by ListingSpark states that they “fully support the principles of the Fair Housing Act … which generally prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings, and in other housing-related transactions, based on race, color, national origin, [and] religion,” and that they “are committed to, creating and fostering an environment of diversity throughout their … organization and franchise system.” Additionally, Section 531.19 of the Rules of the Texas Real Estate Commission prohibits real estate license holders from indicating “any preference, limitation, or discrimination” based on race, color, religion, national origin, or ancestry, among other characteristics. Article 10 of the Texas REALTORS® Code of Ethics (of which Paul is a member) contains a number of anti-discrimination provisions as well. But how can they expect an openly white supremacist Neo-Nazi to abide by these Fair Housing and non-discrimination laws?

Before his current gig with ListingSpark, Paul was the co-owner of Bayou City Properties, LLC, together with Daniel Nelan Starr. During that time both Paul and Daniel had real estate licenses sponsored by Granite Point Realty. The registered address of Bayou City Properties was 1205 Morris Street, the very house that Paul purchased in 2018 and for which he used Daniel as the real estate agent.

Dan Starr clearly had a close relationship with Paul and is still Facebook friends with Paul’s openly fascist account “Woody White,” and he “likes” or interacts with some of Paul’s Nazi posts. Dan Starr’s wife, Olivia, is also Facebook friends with Ariel Gherman. Dan Starr still owns and lists a number of other properties in the Near Northside as well, but appears to currently work for an Austin-based real estate company called Jovio.

The presence of an openly white supremacist real estate agent on the Near Northside, along with his other realty connections, is an enormous threat to all the non-white people still trying to hang on in this neighborhood. Like all U.S. cities, Houston has a long history of racial discrimination, segregation, and white supremacy in the real estate and housing industries, from redlining neighborhoods for disinvestment; blockbusting and white flight; discrimination in lending; and many other practices–both overt and subtle–used to arrange urban space to reflect and reinforce the larger racial hierarchies in society. The recent efforts at gentrifying the Near Northside follow this legacy closely. 

As Atlanta Antifascists noted in their 2017 expose of a white nationalist lawyer and real estate developer, “Involvement in property development and gentrification has several obvious appeals to white nationalists. First, insofar as it builds white enclaves at the expense of communities of color, this parallels the larger-scale political goals of white nationalism. Second, it generates funds and material resources that may be put at the disposal of the racist movement. Third, being perceived as a successful businessperson can itself generate political capital and greater opportunities to spread one’s message.” 

To be clear, the serious problems of racist development strategies and gentrification, housing and lending discrimination, and the displacement and subjugation of communities of color is so much bigger than a handful of avowed Neo-Nazis in the real estate business–just like a handful of Neo-Nazis in law enforcement or the military are not the cause of the white supremacist and colonial/imperial function of policing and the military. The attraction of white nationalists and Neo-Nazis merely illuminates the white supremacist structure and function already existing in these institutions. The structural white supremacy that exists in these industries and institutions creates attractive work opportunities for overt white nationalists, lends them an appearance of legitimacy while they enact their white nationalist agenda, and provides fertile ground for recruiting people steeped in the same culture. 

#YangGang

On March 10th, 2019, Paul and Ariel, along with fellow Nazis William Fears and Joffre Cross (both currently under indictment for being felons in possession of firearms), attended a Houston campaign event for Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang. Paul later bragged on social media about getting memes signed by Yang and sent a picture he had taken with Yang to his dad. At first glance, white nationalists supporting an Asian-American Democratic party candidate is entirely incomprehensible, but there are several forces at play in this. First is the alt-right’s disillusionment with Trump, partly because of his lack of follow through with the border wall and his support for Israel. Organizing support for an opposition candidate is partly a way to punish Trump for these betrayals, an attempt to prove that he and other Republicans need the alt-right to win. 

Having given up on Trump, and presidential candidates in general in some cases, many people on the Alt-Right are “ironically supporting Yang” because they say they just want the free $1000 per month (from his platform focused on a universal basic income) to fund their attempts at activism. The funny Yang Gang slogan, ripe opportunities at endless Yang memes, the fashwave aesthetic of Yang’s hats, and the irony of white supremacists appearing to back an Asian candidate are all factors that have combined into a large support base for Andrew Yang by the Alt-Right.

There are other, more ideological, layers as well, such as Yang’s emphasis on the impact of automation and occasional discussion of demographic changes in the U.S., both white nationalist talking points. 

For his part, Yang has denounced the Alt-Right support, but has hardly done anything to make his campaign inhospitable to them. And signing his name on print outs of Pepe memes seems, at the most generous, extremely naive for someone who wants to run for president, and at worst looks a lot like when Trump feigned ignorance about David Duke and his endorsement of Trump. Additionally, the Alt-Right Yang Gang phenomenon creates opportunities for the muddying political lines and dangerous left-right cross-overs. Traditionally left-wing positions like a universal basic income can easily be co-opted by fascistic movements, especially when they exist in isolation of a larger political analysis of capitalism, the state, and fascism. 

But Charlottesville Was A Long Time Ago And I Thought The Alt-Right Was Dead?

After Charlottesville and the other big fascist rallies of 2017, much of the Alt-Right retreated from grandiose public displays–a reflection of their declining power and legitimacy and also a strategic attempt to regroup. They have made some strides in bolstering their tactics, messaging, and security, such as switching to more unannounced flash-mob style actions, flyering campaigns, and organization building. Our tactics have to evolve as well.

Unfortunately, the lack of a visible fascist spectacle has lulled some on the left into a sense of complacency on a false assumption that what can’t be seen either doesn’t exist or isn’t a serious threat. 

Also much of the left has simply been re-captivated with the spectacles of a new election cycles and official investigations of the president. While Donald Trump’s candidacy and election lent momentum and legitimacy to the Alt-Right and white nationalist politics more generally, an electoral defeat of Trump cannot, by itself, defeat an autonomous fascist movement that no longer believes in him. Radical, creative, and expansive anti-fascist movements are more important than ever.

When it comes to fascists, we don’t forget and we don’t forgive. Stay vigilant and stay anti-fascist!

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