A small-time city councilman in Texas has joined a nationwide chorus of Republican politicians encouraging the violent insurrectionists who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, leaving five people dead.
On social media, Martin Holsome published multiple images of a noose, apparently referencing the siege. On Jan. 7, he captioned one: “Starting in Washington, DC...”
On Jan. 15, he posted the same image of a noose, this time with a caption that unquestionably called for violence: “Once more for those of you who don’t understand... Starting in D.C. - let ’em hang by the neck until they are dead, dead DEAD!!!”
Multiple people said they had reported the tweet but it remained up as of Saturday afternoon. Twitter banned Holsome’s account on Monday. Facebook also appeared to remove Holsome’s campaign pages.
Holsome is a city councilman in Rusk, a small town of just over 5,500 people in a county that voted overwhelmingly to reelect former President Donald Trump. He also appears to be launching an extremely long shot bid for governor.
Despite his relatively low profile — compared to a figure like Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who has repeatedly been accused of helping incite the deadly Capitol riot — Holsome’s rhetoric represents how a toxic combination of conspiracy theories, authoritarian views and inciting violence is being adopted by a significant, and growing, segment of the Republican Party.
Many have gone further than Holsome himself: A HuffPost investigation last week found that at least 21 state and local elected officials attended the rally that turned into the Capitol siege.
With the swearing in of Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), belief in QAnon — the wildly dangerous conspiracy theory that claims that government, entertainment and media elites are pedophile cannibals — has reached Congress. Greene and Boebert subscribe to a mix of other extreme right-wing views too: Both are gun rights extremists, and Greene has called the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, a hoax. Greene has also liked social media posts calling for the execution of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Holsome, who in the past has said he works as a trucker and an independent logging contractor, won his council seat by just one vote in 2018. A profile in a local paper described him as an “unconventional” councilman who is “imperfect” and became an “accidental politician.” Public records show that he will retain his position until 2022.
Even a cursory search of Holsome’s social media pages reveals his far-right beliefs.
“I’m PROUD of you BOYS,” Holsome wrote in a November 2020 Facebook post on his campaign page. “Love to see that the BIG IGLOO is 3 PERCENT full of folks who KEEP their OATH and have plenty of FREEDOM SEEDS.”
The Proud Boys are a far-right extremist group involved in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, along with the militia groups the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters. The “Big Igloo” is a reference to the Boogaloo Bois, an anti-government movement that touts a desire for civil war. “Freedom seeds” are code for bullets.
Rusk Mayor Angela Raiborn did not respond to a request for comment. The Texas GOP issued a statement Sunday denouncing the tweets from Holsome.
“I personally find any depictions of a noose disgusting and despicable,” Texas GOP Chairman Allen West said in a statement. “Martin Holsome’s language is horrifying. Calling for lynching is mortifying to any decent American.”
The day of the Capitol Hill violence, Holsome posted a meme he had made with an image of a massive crowd. The caption read: “Not a single altercation, broken window or destroyed business...because we don’t act like that.” (The image of the crowd he used was actually from the March 2018 gun control protest March for Our Lives.)
Holsome’s meme was lying. Five people died in the immediate aftermath of the insurrection, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who was bludgeoned with a fire extinguisher by at least one member of the mob. Two officers involved in protecting the Capitol that day later died by suicide.
Days before Holsome posted the noose for a second time, he was quoted in a Washington Post story about the growing threat of right-wing extremism. He said that he aligns with several militia groups and that he fears “Democrats and socialists” have been pushing the country toward “civil war.”
“If you are doing something to me I don’t like, if I punch you in your freaking teeth, you are going to stop doing what you are doing,” Holsome told the Post.
In multiple social media posts, Holsome has also defended Kyle Rittenhouse, the 18-year-old from Illinois who fatally shot two people and injured a third at a Black Lives Matter protest in Wisconsin in August.
“A seventeen year old does what any true, red-blooded American should do,” he wrote in an Aug. 28 post that Facebook later took down for violating its guidelines. “We are in a war on our own soil and he preserved life and property.”
Rittenhouse was recently spotted with members of the Proud Boys and flashing the white power “OK” sign at a bar earlier this month while he was free on bail.
“We’re not going to give Texas to the Democratic party,” he wrote in the caption. “A rather large group of Patriots are ready to deploy at moment’s notice as a direct effort to defend our state against any form of unconstitutional action taken against us... #ThreePercenters #Proudboys #Boogaloo.gov.”
Holsome’s son, Blayke, told HuffPost in a statement on Thursday that neither he nor his siblings “agree with or support Holsome’s political statements, views, or beliefs” and that they are “not affiliated with him in any way.”
Holsome did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
In a Jan. 18 tweet showing himself holding a rifle, Holsome acknowledged how he is viewed.
“They call me a ‘right-wing’ extremist,” he wrote. “But knowing what the left stands for, I’m seriously okay with whatever the media wants to portray me as - long as it’s not a leftist!!!”
This story has been updated to include a statement from Blayke Holsome and the Texas GOP.