When the city of Friendswood, Texas, announced on Facebook that hometown hero Haley Carter would be the grand marshal for the town’s famed Fourth of July parade, the post was peppered with excited comments. Carter, who was in the Marines and is a retired professional soccer player, was just the type of person residents wanted to see lead the parade.
Then the right-wing culture fighters showed up.
Conservative radio host Jesse Kelly tweeted the same day that Friendswood appointed a “weapon grabber” who is “in tow” and “transactivism” to lead the parade. Kelly is from Ohio, ran a failed congressional campaign in Arizona and now hosts his radio program from nearby Houston. “Communists are also in blood-red areas,” he wrote.
Before long, excited Facebook comments were accompanied by screenshots of Kelly’s tweets about Carter, some of which included a photo of her young son. She started receiving threats.
On paper, it looks like Carter will support the kind of person that conservatives claim to love the military.
She attended the US Naval Academy and served two tours in Iraq after graduating in 2006. She played in the National Women’s Soccer League for the Houston Dash and served as an assistant coach for the Afghanistan Women’s National Football Team. She has an MBA and a law degree.
But Carter is also an outspoken supporter of gun reform in her home state of Texas. She serves as chair of the Mayoral Commission Against Firearm Violence in Houston, and in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, she wrote a letter demands that Texas leaders act on gun reform. She also regularly takes her son to drag events and once surprised him with a trip to Las Vegas to meet his favorite drag queen.
Just two days after she was announced as Grand Marshal, Carter officially stepped down from the role. No one will replace her.
The city told HuffPost that Carter “voluntarily retired after receiving threats of harm to her and her family. ” (When HuffPost reached out this week, Carter said he was traveling and could not comment.)
“If right-wing reactionaries are willing to threaten violence over a parade, how far will they go?”
The July 4 parade in Friendswood, a city of about 35,000 people about 25 miles from Houston, was a tradition for 130 years. The Fourth of July Steering Committee, consisting of community members appointed by the City Council, choose the Grand Marshal.
Carter was chosen because she is a native and has a long service record, the city told HuffPost.
“Haley embodies everything that represents the unique American holiday. Freedom. Independence. Love for country. In other words, the perfect Fourth of July Grand Marshal, ”Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a statement. “Unfortunately, some have threatened violence against Haley and her family because of her power, her belief in equality and her leadership to reduce gun violence here in Houston.”
Theoretically, if you were so insulted by kids watching drag queens, you just could not take your own child to drag shows. But that’s not enough for people like Kelly and the hordes of people who follow his example.
The Friendswood parade is important to the people of the town, but it is not exactly a national referendum. Haley Carter being the Grand Marshal of an Independence Day parade should not be a controversial appointment. And if right-wing reactionaries are willing to threaten violence over a parade, how far will they go?
It’s all part of a worrying new trend. Conservatives harass people without jobs, such as the white parents who A black woman chased from two teaching posts or the Oklahoma teacher who resigned after parents objected to his TikTok over supporting LGBTQ children.
Carter was harassed for taking part in the parade, but there were no consequences for the people who launched the attacks. In reality, Kelly boasted of his successful hate campaign.
“If you’re looking for someone to blame, Mayor, you should know that it’s me who did it,” he said in response on a tweet from Turner. “I stopped your communist friend from representing a wonderful community. Welcome to The New Rights. ”