South of Austin, White Supremacist Groups Are Flourishing

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The Hill Country around Wimberley – the picturesque village an hour southwest of Austin – is home to several notable musicians, including Paul Simon, Edie Brickell, and Willie Nelson. It’s also, increasingly, a hotbed for white supremacist activity. A new investigation by Southern Poverty Law Center found the area is stomping ground to a leader of one of the most active white supremacist hate groups in the country.

In October, SPLC identified Brenner Cole of Hays County as a “network director” for the massive propaganda generator Patriot Front. “Since 2019, Patriot Front has been responsible for the vast majority of white supremacist propaganda distributed in the United States,” writes the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks domestic extremism. According to the SPLC’s hate fliering map, Patriot Front surpasses other hate groups that use this tactic by a factor of 10 to 1.

Put simply, “Patriot Front is the most active white nationalist hate group we track,” said Jeff Tischauser, senior research analyst at SPLC’s Intelligence Project.

Patriot Front spreads a lot of its messaging online (their fantasy is that they are heirs to the United States’ conquest by European ancestors, per their manifesto) but the group’s signature rally vibe is the sudden public presence of dozens of white, masked men uniformed in khakis and polos, standing in military formation. They either don shields or torches or flares or poles with inverted American flags.

The Chronicle reached Cole, asking if he’s still involved with Patriot Front and if he wanted to provide any context. Cole declined to comment. SPLC reports that he coordinates the South Texas region for the group, pointing to a cache of leaked documents, social media posts, and personal details revealed from his 2018 arrest as evidence. Per the SPLC, his duties include plotting bigoted vandalism, securing new recruits, and coordinating demonstrations.

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