A man involved with the True Texas Project, a Tarrant County-based tea party group, said “white power” to an Asian City Council candidate as he campaigned during early voting in Colleyville, according to two witnesses and a video of the incident.
Amyn Gilani, who is running for the Place 5 Council seat in Colleyville, said he was in the parking lot of City Hall on Saturday and walked past political volunteer David Medlin and Place 5 City Council member Chuck Kelley, who were having a conversation. “David Medlin sticks his fist out and says, ‘white power,’” Gilani said.
There was a second incident on Monday, which Gilani recorded on his phone. He was again outside City Hall and said Medlin had been with a group of incumbent Colleyville council members, including Callie Rigney and Kathy Wheat, before Medlin drove away in his truck and said “white power” toward Gilani.
“Him just saying it in general is not cool,” Gilani said. “I have two brown children I’m raising and I don’t want them to grow up in an environment where they are seen as less than equal. It was tough to hear.”
Kurt Meyer, a City Council candidate for Place 6, said he was with Gilani on Saturday and Monday and corroborated both incidents and also said Medlin was the person who said “white power” toward Gilani. Gilani has filed an information report with police but said he is not pursuing charges.
Medlin has been involved with Colleyville politics for several years, including with the True Texas Project and candidates affiliated with the True Texas Project. He declined an interview request. Reached over the phone, Medlin said, “I know you guys just do propaganda pieces. You don’t really do news.” Then he hung up. He also did not respond to an email seeking comment.
In 2017, Medlin’s forays into political campaigns were featured in an article on Texas Scorecard, the website operated by conservative advocacy group Empower Texans. He told Texas Scorecard about his involvement with the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party (the previous name for True Texas Project) and how he assisted Colleyville races, including with Chris Putnam, a former council member in Colleyville and a 2020 Republican candidate for U.S. Congress, and Bobby Lindamood, a council member. “Thanks to our efforts, we inspired record voter turnout and took back a majority on our council,” he told Texas Scorecard.
Council members Kelley, Rigney and Wheat did not respond to interview requests from the Star-Telegram. They each posted statements on Facebook on Tuesday, with Wheat condemning racism generally and Rigney condemning the “behavior in the video.”
Kelley said, “As a local city council member and as I continue to hold my position as a leader, I first want to apologize for the words that were spoken by a frustrated local community member at the polls recently and my reaction. I reacted inappropriately to the words spoken. Those words were uncalled for, so at this time I apologize and denounce the tastelessness and divisive actions in the video. I am also taking this opportunity now to say Let’s stay focused on what’s important — the issues that define this election.”
Another council member, George Dodson, posted on Facebook, “My friend David Medlin has shown me his love for everyone no matter their stature or lot in life. I’m so proud to have him as a great friend.”
Medlin is featured in pictures on social media at True Texas Project events and wearing a True Texas Project shirt. The True Texas Project, an influential group from which U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Attorney General Ken Paxton have courted support, has made national news for racist and anti-immigrant messaging. After the El Paso shooting in August 2019, Fred McCarty, one of the group’s leaders, posted on Facebook, “Imagine flooding a place with foreign people to the point that the native population will become a minority. Then imagine being shocked at the strife and hostility that results. Imagine.” Over the weekend, True Texas Project’s Facebook account posted pictures of immigrants in places like Europe and Australia with the caption, “We’re under attack.”
The True Texas Project was launched in 2009 as the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party by a Colleyville resident and Grapevine resident. It has supported candidates in local races and been most prominent in Colleyville, where council members Lindamood, Kelley, Wheat, Dodson, and Tammy Nakamura have had its backing (as has mayor Richard Newton).
Gilani has faced other obstacles during his candidacy for City Council. After declaring in February, he discovered a company with ties to Rigney was listed as the registrant of the campaign web domains he wanted to buy. The same thing happened to Meyer, who saw the incidents from Saturday and Monday as intimidation. “It creates a barrier to entry where everyone in town knows if you run against these people you better be prepared,” Meyer said. “As long as it can be well known this intimidation is a barrier to entry it will prevent other qualified people from running.”
Gilani, who is of Pakistani descent, said the behavior in the video from Monday was not emblematic of Colleyville.
“It’s not Colleyville that would actually make me feel uncomfortable,” he said. “It’s just a few people that make it worse. It’s just a small population of people that would say something like that.”