Neo-Nazis at Fort Worth restaurant incite outrage. But what would or should you do?

By Dang Le

On October 12, 2023

A video showing a group wearing Nazi insignia at the Torchy’s Tacos in Fort Worth’s Medical District went viral on TikTok over the weekend. In the video, one man can be seen wearing a swastika armband, while another had a swastika patch on his backpack. 

The video stirred conversations about what people can or should do in similar situations. 

While some said they would confront the group, doing so would only escalate the situation, said Tracy Carter, public relations officer at Fort Worth Police Department.

“If that person didn’t say anything to you, you shouldn’t say anything to them,” Carter said. 

So, what should you do?

The Southern Poverty Law Center reported 72 “hate and anti-government” groups in Texas in 2022. 

Residents should reach out to their local police department if they feel uncomfortable in any encounter rather than getting into arguments or taking matters into their own hands, Carter said. 

However, law enforcement cannot do anything if someone just wears the paraphernalia of a hate group, he said. It’s only considered a hate crime if the person commits a criminal act or causes a disturbance.  

“If someone has something on their shirt, there’s really nothing that we, as a society, can really do about that,” he said.

While people may have the right to judge an expression antithetical to their own beliefs, the group’s act at Torchy’s is generally protected by the First Amendment, said Daxton Stewart, a professor focusing on media law and the First Amendment at Texas Christian University. 

Under the First Amendment, someone can shout offensive language at another person, as long as it doesn’t cross the line into threatening immediate acts of violence, Stewart said. 

“You can’t arrest somebody who’s going out in public and saying racist stuff,” he said. “You can see them do it. You can judge them accordingly. You can speak back at them. But the state can’t arrest them and put them in jail. There’s no hate speech exception for the First Amendment.”

What can businesses do?

Following the video, Torchy’s Tacos headquarters issued a statement on Facebook referring to the diners in question as a “hate group.”

“Let us be clear, we do not stand for hate and do not support this group or any hate group,” the statement reads. “In a difficult situation, our team acted to first ensure the safety of the other guests and our team members.”

Every business reserves the right to refuse service to anyone whom the owners feel uncomfortable serving, Carter said.

“If you don’t leave, you can be arrested,” Stewart said. “It has nothing to do with the content of your speech and everything to do with the fact that you’re trespassing.”

This piece was republished from the Fort Worth Report.

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