Cancelled in Friendswood

Right-wing trolls forced a decorated veteran to pull out of Fourth of July festivities in this small Texas town of 40,000.

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Haley Carter learned a valuable lesson recently: If you want to be the Grand Marshal of an Independence Day parade, it helps to be a Marine, a star soccer pro, and an honors graduate of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

You just can’t tell Governor Greg Abbott to go fuck himself. 

A few weeks ago, Friendswood’s Parks & Recreation department announced that Carter, a Friendswood native, would headline this year’s Fourth of July Parade. A barrage of criticism and threats based on old social-media posts forced her to step down. 

I’m not from Friendswood, but I wasn’t surprised when I heard about this. It’s just another example of what happens when a decent person with liberal leanings makes their voice heard in that community—a few years ago, gay school-board candidate Dakota Carter came under attack from Republican residents who feared he’d promote “the LGBTQ agenda” to impressionable youngsters.

In addition to being a lifetime Girl Scout, Carter competed in NCAA Division 1 soccer in college, after which she served as a Marine Corps Logistics Officer in Operation Iraqi Freedom and played women’s soccer professionally. While it’s obvious she was qualified to headline this patriotic spectacle, critics dug up dirt on her social media pages, where Carter, a staunch supporter of gun reform, told our governor to “get fucked” after he said that “the status quo is unacceptable” and “all options are on the table” when someone asked him about a potential special legislative session aimed at curbing mass shootings back in May. 

Somebody also found a Facebook post with a photo of her son Harper outside the Flamingo Las Vegas with a caption saying that he “can’t wait to watch his favorite Queen, [drag performer] Ginger Minj, perform tonight … Love this kid.” (Minj themself jumped in with a supportive tweet for Carter.)

According to naysayers, she’s a “communist” and a “gun-grabber” who’s also into drag and trans activism. That’s what Houston-based, nationally syndicated radio host Jesse Kelly called her on Twitter. This guy fanned the flames the most, tweeting out the number for Friendswood Parks & Rec. and encouraged his minions to call and complain. 

The same day, the city announced that Carter had voluntarily stepped down “after receiving threats of harm to herself and her family.” A swole-in-the-chest Kelly later boasted about this victory when Mayor Sylvester Turner tweeted about his disappointment. 

“If you’re looking for someone to blame, Mayor, you should know that it’s me who did this,” he tweeted. “I stopped your communist friend from representing a great community.” (Yeah, inciting people to harass a veteran isn’t something to be proud of, Skippy.) 

The parade went on as planned, but without a Grand Marshal. 

This ordeal has been a ludicrous thing to witness. A bunch of angry, white—I mean, right—-wingers thought Carter wasn’t worthy because she’s tired of mass shootings and her kid finds drag queens entertaining (newsflash: They are!). Did they think she was going to be on a float blasting Ani DiFranco music, screaming “my body, my choice” (newsflash: It is!)? Throwing bottles of kombucha to the kids while blasting all the Trumpers with a ray of wokeness beaming out of her chest like a goddamn Care Bear? 

For an area that sits near the former Brio Superfund site—where, for a quarter-century, unprocessed petroleum, waste materials, and other chemicals eventually seeped into the air and groundwater—Friendswood still can’t shake off its aura of toxicity. It prides itself on being one of the safest communities in the state, but that’s mostly because it’s also one of the many Texas suburbs with a heavy number of concealed weapons permits. (It still can’t beat League City!) Its rep is conservative, rich, and white. White folk make up 84 percent of the population with Asians in second place with 8 percent.

The town’s lack of diversity would explain the occasional bits of wrongheadedness that end up being news fodder. Just last year, The Harris County District Attorney’s Office began reviewing more than 200 arrests connected to Friendswood officer Sara Carter, who in 2017 admitted to initiating traffic stops without probable cause. And who can forget that 2019 cellphone video of a white guy at an AT&T store yelling insults at a minority employee named “Mo.” 

“People like this are the reason our country is going to what it’s going to,” he said. “’Cause I’ve been killing his kind for longer than you’ve probably been alive.” 

The guy, whose last name is—I kid you not—Christian, was arrested for public intoxication and disorderly conduct.

Friendswood isn’t completely filled with the putrid and the problematic. (They are just the loudest.) Many Friendswood residents on the Friendswood Parks & Rec.’s Facebook page voiced their disgust for those who pressured Carter to step down. Filmmaker and Friendswood resident Michelle Mower said that more liberal townsfolk should be more vocal in order to prevent straight-up hate like this from happening again. 

“I think it’s really gonna take a lot of us getting more active in the community and really, like, engaging people on a personal level,” Mower said. “Because I feel like what’s happened is that these talk-radio host guys, like the one who created this whole mess to begin with—they have Republicans literally hating Democrats. They think Democrats are evil. They think that we’re the enemy. We’re not the enemy—we’re their neighbors.”