At a town hall meeting on Nov. 29 in Brownsville, Texas, Jose Escobedo, a member of the Parks and Recreation advisory committee, took to the microphone. With a small smirk on his face, Escobedo called Christopher Gracia to read his public comment.
The town hall was for Brownsville residents to voice their opinion on whether the city should remove a monument honoring Jefferson Davis after a petition calling for the relocation of the Confederate monument garnered more than 5,000 signatures.
Gracia— who was then a member of the Youth Advisory Committee for the City of Brownsville along with Escobedo— introduced himself as a high school student and spoke in opposition of removing the monument to Davis, stating that if it hadn’t been for Davis, Texas would be a part of Mexico. Gracia claimed that removing the monument would be the beginning of a stripping of America’s heritage and identity.
“It’s our duty as patriots and people in this country to protect our culture and identity as a country from anybody who wants to remove it,” Gracia said. “If America’s culture is so offensive, so grotesque, I would suggest maybe move to Mexico.”
While many were shocked to hear a member of the Youth Advisory Committee for the City of Brownsville, a region that is predominantly Mexican and Mexican-American, make such remarks, that comment made by Gracia pales in comparison to the racist and alt-right messages he is most famously known for sharing on his Twitter and Periscope accounts.
On a periscope stream titled “SUPPORT WHITE PEOPLE-End the White Genocide taking place all over the world,” Gracia, still serving as a member of the city’s Youth Advisory Council at the time of its broadcast, advocated for closing the borders and ending immigration in the U.S. because a genocide was occurring on white people in America, which was “already diverse enough.”
“The bulk of white genocide is happening through mass migration,” said Gracia in the broadcast watched by 1,000 users. “White people are being replaced by not just non-whites but non-white people who have incredibly high birth rates.”
Gracia and Escobedo were placed on the council earlier this year but removed last week as reported by KVEO. Gracia has been broadcasting racist videos from his periscope account for about six months before concerned residents of Brownsville brought it to city officials’ attention last week.
An hour and a half into the “SUPPORT WHITE PEOPLE” stream, a caller who goes by Angry Ice Wolf skypes into Gracia’s stream to state that if non-white people gain the majority in the U.S., they will try to eradicate all “white history.” Gracia agrees and mentions the town hall on the Jefferson Davis monument in Brownsville.
“There’s a Confederate monument in my city and we always defend it,” Gracia tells them. “There’s going to be a town hall about it, interestingly enough.”
The streams usually go on for several hours—more than four hours in the aforementioned SUPPORT WHITE PEOPLE—and are typically filmed with a confederate flag in the background that Gracia claims to only hang in his room to make fun of “rednecks” and get people mad. During the streams, commenters interact with Gracia and each other, many of them sharing his racist and anti-semitic views.
Gracia’s twitter account, which was changed to private after KVEO’s report, was filled with tweets advocating for closed borders and a stop to immigration. His header image on his Twitter profile was that of a Roman fasces, a symbol once used by fascist Italy.
In a tweet which was featured in posts shared on Facebook by concerned local residents, he writes, “Keep white countries white. Keep black countries black. Keep Asian countries Asian.” The timestamp for the tweet was Dec. 6.
It was this tweet along with an image of Gracia in front of a Confederate flag that began circulating amongst several anti-fascist Facebook pages, with warnings by the posters that Gracia was serving as a member of Brownsville’s Youth Advisory Council while also advancing a white-supremacist agenda on his social media accounts.
Gracia and Escobedo, along with three other students, were announced to be part of the city of Brownsville’s newly established Youth Advisory Council to get high-school students’ input on local issues, as reported in August article by the Brownsville Herald. According to the article, the council was formed after city commissioners began to notice high school students regularly attending commissioners meetings. Moved by their involvement, assistant city planner Michael Lopez and other city officials moved to form the council, with the members for the first year only made up of the students who had already been attending the commissioner meetings.
This decision to add the students to the council without properly looking into their background may have been how Gracia and Escobedo made it onto the council without being flagged by any city officials for their racist views. It wasn’t until local residents began expressing concerns about the two teens on social media that these actions were noticed. Some community members even came forward to share instances in which they were being harassed by Escobedo and Gracia while demonstrating at events.
On Nov. 29, the same day as the town hall event, Escobedo was reported to follow demonstrators at the SlutWalk event by Planned Parenthood Texas Votes. According to organizers of the event, Escobedo would respond to chants about ending sexual harassment with chants of his own advocating for sexual assault.
We had our first scary stalker on campus today! He was following us while wearing a MAGA hat. This child has already harassed me online and shown up to other “progressive” events to troll pic.twitter.com/biIQ9LebW5
— guatosa (@sadieeehdz) November 29, 2017
TW/ SEXUAL ASSAULT
At our event against sexual harassment volunteers said “keep your hands off my sister” and in response, this guy said “please molest my brother”
— guatosa (@sadieeehdz) November 29, 2017
Juan Trevino was one of the citizens who came forward with information about Gracia and Escobedo to city leaders. In an email to Neta, he reported meeting Gracia at an event he helped organize in November of last year.
“I found out only a month or so after that he ran an independent right-wing political YouTube channel. It has been deleted,” wrote Trevino. “Since then, I’ve seen him at various events where he and a small group, Escobedo included, attempt to interview attendees, ambushing them with questions and a video camera.”
Escobedo has been noted by several people to interact with Gracia online. In several tweets, the Parks and Rec advisory member is critical of protesters who want to remove racist monuments. In one reply to Gracia, Escobedo seems to make an anti-semitic comment about actor Adam Sandler. Through a YouTube account linked to Escobedo, he’s shown to subscribe to alt-right youtube accounts.
“It is at this very moment that a Youth Advisory Committee is formed with the blessing of the City of Brownsville,” said Rafael Collado, an activist in favor of removing the monument, in an email to Neta, “and it is conformed of young men who will murmur ‘blood and soil’ during the pledge of allegiance INSIDE City Hall.”
Collado, along with other people in attendance of the November meeting, stated that Gracia could be heard repeating the phrase originated by Nazi Germans that later became a chant used by Neo-Nazi demonstrators in the Unite the Right rally earlier this year in Charlottesville.
During the town hall on the Jefferson Davis monument, several people in attendance also told Neta that Escobedo smiled throughout Gracia’s comment, as though in agreement. The meeting later ended with comments from the Parks and Rec advisory board, which Escobedo is still a member of.
“I care about the community,” Escobedo said after taking an invite from a fellow board member to address the room. “I want us to come together. It would be a lot better than just bickering about in this room over a pile of rocks.”
The city is still conferring on what will happen to the Confederate monument, with the Parks and Recreation board advising city commissioners from what they take away from the interactions with residents of Brownsville. The board is still taking comments from the community.