NB Trump Parade Truck Drags Black Lives Matter Flag; City Says Free Speech Isn’t the Issue
An image of a Black Lives Matter flag tied to the underside of a white pickup truck flying five Trump-themed flags at the New Braunfels Trump Train parade on Thursday made the rounds on social media today.
Many who have seen it are livid.
“Black families are afraid to leave their homes when the Trump Train is out,” said New Braunfels resident Morena Hockley, who also challenged Comal ISD Board of Trustees President David Drastata for calling COVID-19 ‘the China virus’ in an email to Canyon High School parents in late August.
“How is this any different from the old KKK parades in the Deep South?” she asked on Intersectional NB’s Facebook page. “Why is our community prioritizing the comfort of racist white people over the safety of people of color in our community? And how do we fight this?”
Someone posting to the Ruona Nails Facebook page took credit for dragging the Black Lives Matter flag behind their vehicle, alongside an Antifa flag.
“Nope, they gonna stay down there dragging until they fall off, lol,” Ruona Nails posted. “They made it all the way home. Now for my neighbors to see them.”
Trump Train Gains Steam
The New Braunfels Trump Train, which started out “very small” three months ago, according to organizers, now attracts drivers and passengers of as many as 400 vehicles. They pull into the parking lot at the Creekside shopping center at I-35 and FM 306 at 6:30 p.m. each Thursday. The event is so popular that hundreds of participants gather to set up tents, pray, socialize, sell flagpoles, distribute masks, say the pledge of allegiance and play the national anthem before heading out to drive around the city.
On Thursday, the Comal County Republican Party even conducted a voter-registration drive, signing up 20 new voters from Comal County and four from neighboring Guadalupe County.
Critics say some of these participants are drinking and like to intimidate shoppers. According to several sources, a Black couple visiting from out-of-town complained about someone yelling the ‘N’ word at them outside of Belks.
A New Braunfels business owner who lives in a house on Common Street, which is on the parade route, said Trump Train participants are just as boisterous when they pass in front of his residence. He timed the parade on Thursday. It took an hour and 22 minutes to pass his house.
“You can’t break up traffic on Common Street because you will run into each other,” he said of the traffic jam in his Rivercrest neighborhood.
The business owner said he’s afraid to use his name publicly, for fear of retribution. Troubles began when his wife grew tired of their baby being awakened by the weekly blasting of horns, which are modified to sound like train whistles, and of loud cheering by people in vehicles and even by neighbors expressing their support for President Donald Trump.
She held up a sign saying “Baby sleeping, people live here,” and someone in the parade yelled she was a communist. Someone else shouted they would burn down her house if she was a leftist.
When the business owner, who is a U.S. citizen of Hispanic descent, came out of the house to see what the fuss was about, an elderly gentleman riding in one of the cars yelled at him to “get back on my boat” in front of his seven-year-old son.
The man, who also belongs to the New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce, described the Trump Train as a ‘ticking time bomb’ and dispelled any suggestions that the vehicles are evenly spaced or stop at lights.
“About all of the complaints were false. Everyone is behind us. The liberals will always lie and exaggerate everything.”
–Train Organizer Steve Ceh
“Every Thursday it gets larger and larger,” he said. “If there’s an emergency and you’re blocking all these lanes and I have to get out of my residence or something’s going on with my kids, it’s going to be difficult to get out of here. Nobody’s given me any prior warning. New Braunfels is always about doing things right. And for some reason, if they’re going to turn a blind eye…”
He said New Braunfels Mayor Rusty Brockman agreed with him in a phone call that there’s no room in New Braunfels for this kind of behavior.
The business owner also spoke with New Braunfels City Council Member Matthew Hoyt, whose District 4 encompasses much of the parade route. He suggested that Hoyt try sitting on the corner of Common and Union streets holding a Biden for President sign if he wants to get a feel for what the parade is really about.
Trump Train Can’t Be Stopped
This is where semantics enters in.
According to the New Braunfels Police Department Sgt. Tim Brinkkoeter, the Trump Train is doing everything right. It isn’t technically a parade and therefore doesn’t require a permit because drivers stop at stop signs and stoplights. They’re not breaking any laws as long as they obey the law and follow all traffic codes.
He said he spoke with organizer Steve Ceh about those laws, and can think of a single exception where the traffic code was violated. Trump Train follows the rules.
Council Member Hoyt said he’s received a number of complaints from his constituents not about the Trump Train, but about behavior and slurs yelled at residents — some of them which he described as “pretty threatening.”
Until a week ago, he said he wasn’t aware of the scope of the Trump Train, but doesn’t want to play judge and jury now.
Hoyt said he supports the First Amendment, which guarantees free speech in the United States.
“What I’m concerned about is when some of the behavior of a few of the members of this group or participants, borders on something more consistent with a hate group, which I don’t think represents most people in this group, but it’s certainly something I’m concerned about,” he said. “It’s scaring a number of people in my district who are upset.”
Hoyt said he won’t be “leading any charge” to take free speech away from his constituents.
“The First Amendment guarantees we all have a right to our opinions and yes, even to fly our flags with pride, but not at the expense of the safety, security and sanity of our community.”
–Gloria Meehan, Comal County Democratic chair
For the moment, it’s a safety issue, and he said he has shared his concern about the Trump Train with both the Comal County Sheriff’s Office and the New Braunfels police.
“I certainly hope that all members of our community can be respectful towards others who may not choose to be involved in one side or the other publicly but have the right to live peacefully, have the right not to have train horns going through their children’s bedrooms as they pass through,” he said. “It seems disrespectful.”
For his part, Ceh said last night’s parade went smoothly.
“NBPD was on site at the start and end,” he said. “I discussed the night with them and he said very few complaints about honking. That was it. Out of over 400 vehicles. That is something to be proud of.”
Ceh said he also spoke with county judges, New Braunfels Police Chief Tim Wibert, Comal County commissioners, county constables and New Braunfels city council members.
“About all of the complaints were false,” he said. “Everyone is behind us. The liberals will always lie and exaggerate everything.”
He said participants have been instructed not to disturb the woman with the sleeping baby and refrain from honking when they pass by.
“Ninety-nine percent of the community is in full support,” Ceh said. “It’s the one-percent that squeak a little.”
Father-of-the-sleeping-baby, the New Braunfels business person quoted earlier in this story, said the Trump Train passed by his house quietly at first on Thursday, but as it picked up steam along Common Street started honking horn whistles — loudly.
“The First Amendment guarantees we all have a right to our opinions and yes, even to fly our flags with pride, but not at the expense of the safety, security and sanity of our community,” said Gloria Meehan, Comal County Democratic chair, when asked for her response to the partisan issues and safety concerns raised by the New Braunfels Trump Train.
“I don’t think our city and county leaders envisioned a roaming mob, gunning their trucks and Mad-Maxing it through our town as an invitation to come live or visit our ‘Life Is Beautiful’ City of New Braunfels.”
New Braunfels Diversity Council
Dr. Jessica Edwards, a New Braunfels physician who is black and concerned about the message the Trump Train sends to people of color, weighed in on the controversy in an email today to Brockman and other members of the newly formed New Braunfels Diversity Council:
“Hello everyone. We should be adding the concerns of members of color in our community in regard to the weekly demonstrations as well. See picture attached. I had a patient call me saying that she didn’t feel safe leaving her home when these rallies were happening and another patient who was called the N word and spat at as they passed by her home.
“I am not saying to impinge on their right to free speech but there needs to be a discussion of at least making them get a permit, etc., and more monitoring for illegal behavior.
“I would also like to share with this committee that we have missed out on the opportunity for multiple doctors of color to move to our community in fear of these events and their concern of how they will be treated.
“This has affected my own practice expansion as well because the doctor was a single woman. Our town is better than this.”
Editor’s Note: Trump Train is canceled for Sept. 10. Instead, organizers are sponsoring a “foot” rally at the Main Plaza as a sign of support for Republican leaders meeting at the New Braunfels Convention Center.
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