It is is no small irony that the venue they selected employs a member of a violent anti-LGBT organization, the Proud Boys. The AT&T Center has repeatedly been made aware of their concierge Dustin Casler’s affiliation and leadership role with the Proud Boys but has refused to take action.
It would be an inexcusable error to host any conference at the AT&T Center, particularly when there is a long history of complaints of discrimination against LGBT people and people of color:
The antifascists ask again that all readers call (512) 404-1900 to speak to managers, leave Facebook reviews, and encourage conferences to boycott the venue and to send emails until Casler is terminated.
On the evening of August 6th, a group of masked Antifascists protested AT&T Conference Center management over their continued employment of local “Proud Boy” Dustin Casler.
According to sources, the previous demonstrations undertaken by various groups were only partly successful. They led to Casler being kept in a back room without a name tag, in hopes that he would be forgotten, and to Casler changing his primary residence. But they have not yet led to his firing, the minimum demand of Austin’s antifascists. If they had hoped the issue could be swept under the rug and forgotten, it seems they were mistaken.
This was readily apparent when nearly twenty demonstrators marched through the length of the conference center and hotel building, carrying banners and chanting “Fire Dustin Casler!” throughout. Flyers were distributed to employees and managers, though one of them called UT Police anyway.
One demonstrator loudly informed management that Proud Boys are a threat to women, immigrants, Muslims and LGBT people, and demanded Casler’s immediate and public termination.
As they marched down the stairs and out of the conference center, demonstrators chanted a final promise to management: “We’ll be back!”
One AT&T Center employee made the perplexing decision to follow the crowd as it marched offsite. A few demonstrators made clear he should keep his distance, especially from non-male marchers. He quietly removed himself amid renewed chanting.
As they left, antifascists noticed police cruisers pull up on site, too late to guard a fascist and his patrons.
The antifascists ask that all readers call (512) 404-1900 to speak to managers, leave Facebook reviews, and encourage conferences to boycott the venue and to send emails until Casler is terminated.
As they marched the antifascists informed appreciative residents about Paul Joseph Preston, aka “Wooderson”. Conversations were held in both Spanish and English about Preston’s participation in the deadly Charlottesville rally, his work with Identity Europa, and his predatory real estate practices.
The bloc stood outside the home chanting slogans like, “Good night, alt-right / We know where you sleep at night”. Passing motorists slowed down to show support and received further information about Wooderson and his fascist girlfriend, Ariel Gherman.
Two anonymous antifascists walked to the door, gave it a knock (it was unclear who was present) and taped flyers to the window.
Police arrived on the scene shortly and so did Wooderson, driven by a friend in a red truck with a trailer. Unable to park in front of the house, the friend clumsily drove down a dead-end street to the backside of the property owned by Paul Preston, only to find they were being followed by the masked crowd. Making a clumsy reversal, the truck returned to the front and Wooderson quickly jumped out and darted for his front door
Many had expected Paul Preston, known for his macho posturing online, to begin a confrontation with the antifascists upon exiting. Instead, he changed directions and slunk inside his home under the watchful eye of HPD.
The look of fear and shock on his face will be remembered by many, with one Austin comrade humorously remarking, “the look on that coward’s face when he was all fucked up in that dead end will fuel me.”
An HPD officer quickly followed Paul Joseph Preston to the house and was invited inside by Ariel Gherman. It then became clear she had been present for the entire event and likely called the police. The presence of the cops did not dampen the antifascists’ mood and the chanting continued. Drumming on a plastic barricade by some creative comrades set off the alarm on Ariel Gherman’s car, adding to the din.
Police made hostile statements and asked if a leader of the antifascists would step forward and speak. The only response was a chant of “cops and Klan go hand in hand.” They then helpfully removed the flyers from Paul Preston’s porch, since Preston was apparently unwilling to step outside or even look out the window.
Errors and Missteps
While the action was undoubtedly a resounding success, there are always lessons to be drawn. Firstly, less visible staging and debriefing areas should be utilized where possible. Secondly, more organized and rapid movement between locations would leave less room for potential attacks from cops or fascists.
An opportunity was arguably missed when the entire antifascist bloc followed Wooderson’s truck down the cul-de-sac and back, thinning the ranks. This was done under the assumption Wooderson would be entering his second property at the end of the road. In retrospect, some antifascists might have remained to guard the front entrance of the home while others followed the truck. On the other hand, splitting the bloc might have made police retaliation more likely.
These are minor criticisms of an overwhelmingly successful action.
The Enemy Retreats, We Pursue
Between this home demo in Houston, and the actions by various groups against Dustin Casler as well as those targeting “Texas Nomads” in Austin, it seems Texas antifascists as a whole are taking an increasingly proactive approach. While cities must be defended against fascist rallies and marches, fascists cannot be allowed to dictate the time, place, and manner of struggle.
Having been shut down and blocked time and again, many fascist groups in Texas no longer have the appetite for publicly announced rallies. In a desperate attempt to avoid defeat they have largely shifted to “flash demos” that are coordinated among their membership in secret.
They are finally realizing that hiding and sneaking will not save them, because antifascists are taking the fight to their front doors.
Supporters inform us that Proud Boy Dustin Casler’s employment by the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center Hotel on the UT Austin campus has led to continued protests and other actions. Despite being notified by multiple organizations the company has failed to take appropriate actions to protect their guests, workers, and students.
Antifascists marched on the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center Hotel with signs informing guests, employees, and students of the threat posed by the Proud Boys, a fascist gang disguised as a fraternity. Proud Boys have organized violence in New York, Portland, and Charlottesville. Jason Kessler, who organized the deadly rally in Virginia, was at the time a Proud Boy.
Informational flyers alerting visitors and employees about Casler’s activities were also distributed, according to sources. In addition to attending Proud Boys events in Austin, Dustin Casler was a moderator on the (now discontinued) official Proud Boys web forum, using his own name.
The antifascists informed the AT&T Hotel and Conference Center that Dustin Casler’s employment will not be swept under the rug and that actions will continue until a public announcement is made of his termination.
They further suggest that all Austinites and antifascists abroad call (512) 404-1900 and demand Casler’s removal as a matter of public safety.