Armed militia protesting San Antonio drag show on Tuesday has history of provocation

The same group was involved in a tense standoff with Black Lives Matter protesters downtown in 2020.

click to enlarge Armed members of This Is Texas Freedom Force position themselves at the Alamo during a May 2020 BLM protest. - James Dobbins
James Dobbins
Armed members of This Is Texas Freedom Force position themselves at the Alamo during a May 2020 BLM protest.
The militia group that planning an armed protest against a Christmas-themed drag show at San Antonio's Aztec Theatre on Tuesday has a history of controversial statements and provocative actions.

This Is Texas Freedom Force (TITFF), which the FBI calls an “extremist militia,” announced on social media that it plans to protest A Drag Queen Christmas. San Antonio police officials told the Express-News they're preparing for the gathering and "want to assure the public, and specifically the LBGTQ+ community," that officers are committed to upholding public safety.

TITFF is not stranger to provocative protests, and the group's social media accounts show its willingness to spin far-right conspiracy theories. Here's a rundown:
  • TITFF is defined as an extremist militia group by both the FBI and Southern Poverty Law Center. The organization denies being a militia, instead calling itself a nonprofit with a mission of "protecting and preserving Texas history," according to its website.

  • At least one dues-paying member of TITFF, Guy Reffitt, took part in the Jan. 6 insurrection, according to NBC's DFW affiliate.  However, TITFF president Brandon Burkhart has said Reffitt didn't attend any group meetings or outings.

  • TITFF assembled downtown during a May 2020 Black Lives Matter protest, purportedly to guard the Alamo Cenotaph. Its members traded insults with protesters and brandished weapons, ratcheting up a chaotic 90-minute standoff at the end of what had started as a peaceful protest.

  • Members of TITFF on the Alamo grounds during the 2020 protest wore Confederate symbols, and some were dressed in Hawaiian shirts, a symbol embraced by far-right groups to signal support for a second civil war.

  • On its website, TITFF states that it isn't affiliated with any political party or ideology. However, the group's Twitter account is full of right-wing conspiracy theories involving COVID-19 vaccines and Hunter Biden, and its tweets also include anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric.

  • Former TITFF leader Robert Beverly told the Current during a 2017 protest to preserve a downtown Confederate memorial that the group isn't racist. However, in the same interview, Beverly said he was disappointed after hiring African Americans workers because "they're either on drugs or don't show up.
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Michael Karlis

Michael Karlis is a Staff Writer at the San Antonio Current. He is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., whose work has been featured in Salon, Alternet, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, Orlando Weekly, NewsBreak, 420 Magazine and Mexico Travel Today. He reports primarily on breaking news, politics...

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