In the summer of 2020, many residents of Huntsville and the surrounding area became aware, via social media, that a “Pro-America Rally” was being planned. This was set to take place on Sunday, August 9. The logo for the event was an American flag, overlaid by a Confederate flag in the shape of Texas. Local activists responded immediately, planning a die-in at the site of the Confederate monument the County Commissioners, four months later, would vote to keep. In the end, the rally was cancelled, the die-in took place and the vocal white majority continued its plans to “celebrate America” by rallying for its current President, Donald J. Trump.
Over the course of the long, six-month campaign to have the monument removed – note: removed, not necessarily destroyed – numerous citizens of Walker County repeatedly testified to a disturbing trend in the community: the resurgence of openly white supremacist behavior. On the 26th of June, just over one month prior to the scheduled “Pro-America Rally,” a Walker County resident parked at the monument, fell to his knees and prayed to his idol before shouting racial slurs and threatening the leaders of a peaceful protest with violence. Though he was the only one to pray to the Confederate monument, he was not the only one to shout slurs or threaten protesters. Increasingly, however, over the months that followed, as citizens’ input fell on the deaf ears of the Commissioner’s Court and the upcoming election ramped up political division across the county, the n-word was often replaced with the MAGA mantra, “Trump 2020!”
On Oct. 31, just days before the presidential election, the Republican Party of Walker County hosted a Trump Train event set to proceed from Bower Stadium at Sam Houston State University through the town of Huntsville. It was a parade, a pageant, replete with wigs, face paint, full on costumes (involving Trump face masks), adorned vehicles and even a hearse to collect “Democratic Votes One Dead Stiff at a Time.” All of this was documented in over eight hundred photographs shot and posted by Huntsville’s “Mr. Pics”. Indeed, two of our Commissioners, Danny Kuykendall (Precinct One) and Bill Daugette (Precinct Four) were documented participants. Kuykendall used the event as an opportunity to advertise his own re-election campaign, with a giant red and white sign in the same font and layout as the ubiquitous Trump signs.
Much ink has been spilled recently over the controversial vote by the Commissioner’s Court to leave the Confederate monument standing. And though it may seem that this has little to do with Trump loyalists or white supremacy, the events of Wednesday the Jan. 6 – the storming of our nation’s capitol by a pro-Trump insurgent mob – make plain that celebrating Confederate sedition, white supremacy and Trump loyalism go hand in hand. The same flags that flew that fateful day flew in our community’s “Train.” I wonder how parents who brought their children out to celebrate their beloved candidate will explain his traitorous incitement of violence. For shame.