A Conroe brewery says it's been inundated with harassment and some threats after announcing Friday that it would no longer allow a "rally against censorship" featuring Kyle Rittenhouse to be held there later this month.
"It's been kind of a s**tstorm," Southern Star Brewery CEO Dave Fougeron said in a Saturday morning interview. "But now I'm more certain than ever that I made the right decision."
Fougeron also said that he was not aware until a few days ago that the event's "special guest" was Rittenhouse. And he disputed claims – including those from Rittenhouse and others – that the cancellation came after pressure from a "woke mob" or distributors such as H-E-B.
Rather, he said, it was primarily concerns from local patrons that led to the decision. Fougeron described himself as apolitical, and said his brewery, which produces well-known local craft beers such as Bombshell Blonde, strives to be a place that's welcoming to all.
"Our place is super inclusive," he said. "We are super pro-veteran, super pro-law enforcement. We're trying to be good people in the community. We're friends with our firefighters, with our police department. . . . We have a lot of gay patrons who come in because it's a place of inclusivity. It's crazy that we're getting threats from people."
On Friday evening, Rittenhouse – who was famously acquitted of fatally shooting two people in Kenosha, Wis. at a Black Lives Matter protest in 2020 – accused the brewery of censoring him.
"It's really disappointing to see that places continue to censor me and not allow my voice and many other voices to be heard because they bend to the woke crowd," Rittenhouse posted to his nearly one million followers on Twitter. Other high-profile right-wing accounts similarly accused the brewery of censorship after it announced that it was canceling the event because it "doesn't reflect our own values."
An event spokesperson confirmed the cancellation on Friday and said it was "definitely" getting rescheduled elsewhere.
The Jan. 26 event was also set to include a leader of TEXIT, a group that advocates for Texas to secede from the United States. The event organizer is Defiance Press, a Conroe-based publisher behind titles including "Corona-fascism" and a biography of Joe Arpraio, the former Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff who refused a judge's order to stop racial profiling by his department.
Defiance Press describes itself as "active in the fight against censorship through publishing conservative books which have been widely censored from mainstream media," and has also published materials that support Texas leaving the United States.
Rittenhouse has increasingly focused on anti-media and "anti-censorship" crusades since being found not guilty of homicide and other charges in 2021. The cancellation by Southern Star – which follows a few days of backlash – is just the latest controversy involving Rittenhouse to occur in Texas.
Last year, he announced his plans to attend Texas A&M University, a claim that he walked back after the university said he had not been accepted. Rittenhouse, an Illinois native, later said he plans to attend Blinn College, a two-year school in Brenham.
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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.
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