Left Coast Right Watch
Back to Articles


February 26, 2024 by ALISSA AZAR

LCRW is 100% reader-funded!

Support LCRW

From February 2nd through February 4th, hundreds of Trump supporters, Christian nationalists, and people associated with neo-Nazi active clubs and other fascist groups made their way down to Quemado, Texas. They attended to show their support for Greg Abbott and his defiance against the Biden administration and the Supreme Court ruling to remove the deadly razor-wire that’s along the Rio Grande River in Shelby Park. 


On January 12th, a woman and two children died just days after Texas state authorities blocked the US Border Patrol from accessing a 2.5 mile stretch of the US-Mexico border near Eagle Pass. Victerma de la Sancha Cerros, 33; Yorlei Rubi, 10; and Jonathan Agustín Briones de la Sancha, 8 drowned near the US-Mexico border, presumably while attempting to cross into the U.S. These deaths magnified the rift between federal officials and the State of Texas. The area that was blocked off to US Border Patrol includes Shelby Park, a city park that Texas authorities barricaded with gates, fencing, and razor-wire. The same day that the woman and her two children drowned to death, two other migrants were rescued by Mexican authorities and suffered severe hypothermia.

According to CBP, when Border Patrol officials learned that there were migrants in distress, they made a call to the Texas Military Department, the Texas National Guard and Texas Department of Public Safety, and soldiers told them that they would not grant them access to the migrants, even in a state of emergency. The Texas National Guard said that they would send soldiers to investigate the situation, but the bodies of the migrants were discovered by Mexican authorities the next morning. The Texas Military Department said that Border Patrol’s claims are “wholly inaccurate,” and claimed that Border Patrol only relayed that Mexican authorities had discovered the bodies of two migrants. 

The dispute over the TNG’s use of concertina wire along the Rio Grande River to violently deter migrants from entering the United States started to intensify. President Joe Biden and Gov. Greg Abbott escalated the contention over whether Border Patrol has the legal authority to cut concertina wire that Texas installed on the banks of the Rio Grande. In July last year, the Justice Department sued Texas, claiming that the floating buoy barriers covered in concertina wire were installed unlawfully, and asked the judge to force the state to remove them.

During this time, Abbott announced that he was not “asking for permission” for Operation Lone Star, the anti-immigration program that the concertina wires and floating barriers were a part of. Judge David Alan Ezra found Texas’ argument about self-defense during this so-called invasion “unconvincing,” and that federal law requires permission from the federal government when installing obstructions in the water. In addition, a new law is set to take effect in March which would give law enforcement in Texas the authority to arrest migrants who cross the border illegally and encourage judges to order them out of the United States. Abbott has already allowed troopers to jail and arrest thousands of migrants on trespassing charges. The Justice Department has sued over Senate Bill 4 (SB 4), claiming it  would overstep the federal government’s immigration authority. 

On January 22nd, the Supreme Court ultimately ruled to allow Border Patrol access to Shelby Park and the ability to cut the concertina and razor wire. It has been over three weeks since this ruling came out, and no further action from the Biden administration has been implemented, virtually allowing the State of Texas and Abbott to do as they please. As we enter a heated election season, the ongoing dispute has been used to undermine the Biden administration, and it appears that Gov. Abbott is testing out just what and how much he can get away with. 


On January 30th, the Texas Military Department posted a photo of a flagpole outside of the Texas National Guard headquarters in Austin flying the Texas State Flag, and beneath it the Gonzales “Come And Take It” flag. It was a not-so-subtle message to the federal government.

Calls to action began going out on Telegram channels and were hyped up by various right wing figures, including Alex Jones and Tucker Carlson. One America News Network did an interview promoting the event, Live From America TV released a promotional video for the convoy on Rumble, and Breitbart released promotional material for the event as the convoy was en route to Texas. The convoy itself was organized by conservative radio hosts Scotty Saks and Kim Yeater. Yeater is associated with the Awaken megachurch franchise in San Diego, California, which LCRW has previously covered. Awaken is led by Jurgen Matthesius, and previously hosted Mike Flynn’s Reawaken America Tour, toting Christian revivalism and far-right conspiracy theories. Yeater said that she was “propelled by a vision from God” to put the call out for the convoy.

Another organizer was former Army Lt. Col. Pete Chambers, who promoted the convoy on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’s “InfoWars” and Tucker Carlson’s podcast. Chambers said that his plan included traveling to the border to work with local law enforcement to hunt migrants and capture them. Reviewing the convoy’s Discord and Telegram chats shows how rampant the paranoia around federal infiltration was. Many were calling the rally and convoy a “false flag” and stating their concerns about entrapment.

“they’re gonna screencap this and post it on X,” a user named “Jim Morrison” said in the “Take Our Borders Back” Telegram chat.

He was referring to people in the chat sharing screenshots of what was being said in there on social media, to which another user called “D Signal Support sys” said “That’s the point, they’re ops. And since channel owners aren’t doing much about it, makes me wonder another J6 op.” 

“Op” here means “operation” as in “psychological operation.” 

“Feels like a false flag. They are pumping a VERY specific location (Shelby park)… it’s ripe to be staged,” another user named “Spence” said.

Scrolling farther in the chat shows countless messages similar to these—at times with even chat users accusing others of being feds.

Leading up to the events, the internet was teeming with right-wingers hyping up and drooling over the possibility and desire for a civil war. Various groups were talking about arming themselves and preparing their kits—some in preparation to face off with federal authorities, others in hopes of finding migrants so they could take matters “into their own hands.” Many who stated their intent to “defend the border” said they were responding to a call to action by Carlson. 

Various chats associated with the convoy were also repeatedly discussing the “great replacement“— a racist conspiracy theory that claims the Democratic Party is bringing in immigrants in order to cull the white majority and gain electoral power. Abbott has directly emboldened this white supremacist rhetoric, both within the convoy and across the transnational fascist right. Abbott is using the word “invasion” to describe immigration more and more frequently. A memo Abbott sent to the Department of Public Safety and the National Guard urging them to step up their border security efforts used the subject line “Defend Texas Against Invasion.” On social media, he declared that he “invoked the Invasion Clauses of the U.S. & Texas Constitutions” to justify his border efforts. In 2019 in El Paso, a gunman used the same rhetoric as Abbott to justify murdering 23 people in a shooting spree at a Walmart. .

“The federal government has broken the compact between the United States and the States,” read a quote by Abbott widely circulated on Telegram—including on neo-Nazi pages. This was used to justify their perceived “right to self-defense” against the “invasion at the southern Texas border.” 

But the rhetoric from Abbott at the top doesn’t just serve to justify bigots’ organized violence—it’s also a recruitment tool for hate groups. Far-right and white supremacist groups including the Aryan Freedom Network, Proud Boys, Parker County Active Club and other neo-Nazi active clubs have all been taking advantage of the standoff at the border to push for new members and spread hate.


the sign at cornerstone children's ranch with a texas flag american flag and flag with a cross on it

The rally itself ended up taking place in Quemado, Texas at the Cornerstone Children’s Ranch,  roughly 20 miles away from Shelby Park. As media began covering the event, organizers shifted the narrative and handled the groups coming into town for it differently. Far-right militias and neo-Nazi active clubs were asked to only participate if they wore nondescript clothing and left their kits and weapons at home (or at least not visible). 

No we are not militia friendly,” Christina Holbrook (aka Thought Criminals), admin for the convoy’s Texas Telegram channel wrote. 

Holbrook proceeded to ask participants to leave their long guns at home because “it does not look good.” Vehicles with violent and/or inflammatory words on them were asked to drive to a rest stop near the ranch to cover the words with tape before returning. LCRW witnessed at least one Proud Boy who was barred from wearing colors, a man wearing plate carriers was asked to remove it before entering, and even two people in “Texit” shirts who were told by organizers that they wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment, but that they needed to change because the press would focus on that. 
Many of these orders and directions came directly from the group that was doing security for the rally and convoy. The leaders of the security team included Michael Forzano, who is, or was at once, the leader of San Diego-based hate group Exiled Patriots, and his wife Robyn Forzano. The couple have a violent past and history of far-right organizing and have previously organized events with white supremacist American Guard members covered in Nazi tattoos. The concern over the event’s optics quickly became an obsession.

On February 2nd, the day before the rally, a good number of cars lined up on the streets outside of the ranch waiting for the convoy to arrive. Right wing media and influencers—even Trump himself—speculated that massive numbers would be participating in the convoy and at the rally. Finally, after slogging through a hail storm and pouring rain, the convoy arrived eight hours late—only 300 of them. On Friday, the first night the self-titled “Gods Army” were staying at the ranch. They were charging everyone who entered $20, and upped it to $40 by Saturday. The event was so different from what the original plan was, and so boring, that even attendees were hanging out by the cars with their friends instead of actually inside the ranch. If you were to remove all members of the press and the security team, there very well may have been more people selling merch than anything else. 

On Saturday afternoon, I was standing near the entrance to the ranch in the scorching heat and blazing sun. I was about to walk to my vehicle to grab some water and re-up on sunblock when I began hearing a commotion. I put walking to the car on the backburner and went to see what all the noise was about. Amongst the long line of cars attempting to enter the ranch or find parking on the street, a blue and orange RV drove by and at that moment was directly in front of the entrance to the ranch. The RV had “Faith, Hope & Love. Supporting democracy for all” written on it, and the driver announced that he was a Christian Pastor to the group of men nonsensically shouting at him. 

“Get the fu*k out of here,” I heard someone yell, and “you’re not welcome,” from another.

I tried to figure out who this was and what got everyone so upset. As I began walking around the RV I noticed that on one side of the vehicle it said  “Resisting insurrections for a more perfect union,” and  “Confronting Christian nationalism for a more perfect union” on the other. At this point, Mike Forzano and his crew made their way over to the driver’s side to ask the pastor to leave and say they didn’t want him there. 

“This is the stuff that gives us negative press and makes us all look like yahoos. No thank you. Move it along please,” Forzano told the pastor, who was driving the RV at the time.

The RV began slowly driving away when one of the event organizers shouted. 

“We don’t believe in a democracy, we believe in a constitutional republic, try supporting a constitutional republic,” he declared, followed by cheers from the crowd. 

The hokey, grifting nature of the rally shouldn’t detract from the very real threat these mostly-armed out-of-town racists posed. During the weekend, a nearby migrant facility was forced to evacuate after convoy participants threatened to burn it down with the migrants in it. A group of three people who were a part of the convoy and at the ranch threatened and harassed migrants on their livestream as they made money doing so. Dennis Yarbery (aka MasterGrifter, Big D), Josh Fulfer (aka OreoExpress), and Joe Felix (aka Taco Joe) went searching for migrants after leaving the ranch in Texas and headed to the border in both Arizona and California. 

“We’re illegal hunters,” Yarbery told a store clerk on his livestream, “I’ve hunted a lot in my life, but I’ve never actually hunted people, and that’s what we’re doing now.” 

Paul Faye, a man from Tennessee who was also planning on joining the convoy was arrested by the FBI due to his plans to murder migrants at the border. Faye informed the FBI that he was “coordinating with militia groups from Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee,” and documents also revealed that he was in communication with the leader of the far-right militia group United Patriot Party of North Carolina. Faye had plans to travel with them and act as a sniper for the group.. Jeremy Allred, also a member of the United Patriot Party of North Carolina, was traveling with a group of people when they got pulled over by the Department of Public safety. DPS previously made a report that migrants may have been held at gunpoint after an FBI surveillance plane spotted people brandishing weapons near the border. According to DPS, Allred had multiple guns in his possession, and although he wasn’t arrested, he admitted to the police that he “did brandish a rifle in the presence of migrants.”


A woman in a brown beret uniform with beret and backpack poses for a photo

On Sunday, the day after the Take Our Borders Back convoy and rally, Abbott and a slew of other Republican politicians held a press conference in Shelby Park. At the conference, Abbott again aired his grievances against Biden and his handling of things at the border and stated he was “recommitted to defending the state from an ‘invasion’ of migrants.” 

“As opposed to detaining illegal immigrants, Biden has let them all loose, with no ability to accurately determine their whereabouts,” Abbott lied. “We’ve seen the catastrophic consequences of Joe Biden’s open border policy.” 

Locals from Eagle Pass also held a press conference of their own. Eagle Pass residents, joined by Carnalismo National Brown Berets and the No Border Wall Laredo Coalition made it clear that the only “invasion” they saw was the Christian nationalists calling themselves “Gods Army,” the 14 Republican governors, and the heavy militarization at Shelby Park. Juanita Martinez, an Eagle Pass resident and chair of the Maverick County Democratic Party, told reporters that the far-right rally was the first time in her life that she had felt unsafe in Eagle Pass. 

“There has been an invasion, but I’m not talking about the immigrants,” she said, going on to state that it was Abbott’s violent rhetoric and the Christian nationalists who were spreading “hate and dissension.” 

Locals also expressed their concerns and frustrations that city leaders were pouring so much money into the heavy militarization at the border while their own town was being neglected- they cited their lack of decent public education, issues with the infrastructure, and the lack of well-paying jobs and clean water. 

Jessie Fuentes, an Eagle Pass resident who owns a kayak and canoe business along the Rio Grande, talked about how Abbot’s policies have a detrimental effect on his business. Ever since Abbott and the Texas National Guard seized control of Shelby Park, Fuentes says his business took a major hit since it blocked off access to the only publicly available boat ramp. He said that it was no longer a park anymore. Instead, he called it a “staging area for hate.”

“I want my river back. I want my park back…I want a say in our community,” Fuentes said. He is now suing the state of Texas, the Department of Public Safety, and the Texas National Guard over both his issues with accessing the park for his business, as well as the placement of the deadly razor wire-adorned floating buoys.

After the press conference by Eagle Pass residents, the group marched over to Shelby Park to confront the very small but loud group of far-right demonstrators. The right-wingers were standing near the closed-off street that leads to Shelby Park. There was something eerie and surreal about a group of white men from out of town yelling “go back to where you came from” to a group of local, mostly Indigenous people. The standoff between the two groups lasted for several hours, with the majority of the time the two groups standing on opposite corners of the street and yelling back and forth at one another. The entire time there was a massive police presence trying to keep the two groups apart. At one point, the group of Indigenous folks and Eagle Pass residents crossed the street to where the Trump supporters were for a more direct confrontation. After a few minutes of verbal confrontations, law enforcement quickly forced them back across the street to keep the groups separated.

During this protest LCRW spoke with an Indigenous member of the Carnalismo National Brown Berets. She explained that many community members who are against the militarization and what Abbott is doing couldn’t safely join them for the protest, regardless of how much they wanted to. 

“When you live in a heavily Trump country and you’re not a Trumper or a MAGAt, you don’t feel safe. I can’t blame anybody,” she said. 
“But you know what? I’m not afraid. I’m not scared of those illegal aliens across the way. Europeans are not Indigenous to this land, and yet they want to say ‘let’s make America white again.’ America was never white, honey!”

Trending Articles

To top