August 14, 2022

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Former Marine steps down as July 4 parade grand marshal of Texas town after threats of violence

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A former Marine slated to lead Friendswood’s Fourth of July parade backed out Thursday after...

A former Marine slated to lead Friendswood’s Fourth of July parade backed out Thursday after a coordinated campaign to remove her as grand marshal led to threats of violence against her and her family, the city’s parks department announced. 

Haley Carter, who also chairs Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Commission Against Gun Violence, “voluntarily stepped down,” she said, after failed congressional hopeful, former RV salesman and conservative talk show host Jesse Kelly sicced his hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers on her and her family Wednesday. Kelly said he took exception to Carter’s political views and even posted a photo of her child in an effort to intimidate Friendswood officials into canceling her inclusion in the parade. 

After the city announced Carter was receiving threats of violence, Kelly celebrated, saying “UPDATE: She’s gone” and declaring his actions as part of “The New Right,” described by Vanity Fair’s James Pogue as “a project to overthrow the thrust of progress, at least such as liberals understand the word.” In Kelly’s plea to his followers, he lamented that Carter was “into trans activism” and pointed out that she took her excited son to a drag show in Las Vegas to see his “favorite Queen.” 

While Kelly’s insular following applauded his maneuver, others spoke in support for Carter. Turner, who appointed her to the city of Houston’s commission in 2018, called her an “American hero” and role model. 


“Simply put, Haley is the best of us,” Turner said in a statement released Thursday afternoon. “It is no wonder that her hometown of Friendswood chose to honor her in their Fourth of July parade. Haley embodies everything the uniquely American holiday represents. Freedom. Independence. Love of country. In other words, the perfect Fourth of July grand marshal.

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“Unfortunately, some have threatened violence against Haley and her family because of her strength, her belief in equality, and her leadership in trying to reduce gun violence here in Houston,” Turner continued. “But they have failed. Haley will continue to move forward and make positive changes as she has always done.”

Kelly, who lives in a Friendswood gated community, claimed to be doing the work on behalf of the small “blood red” town by starting the campaign against Carter. A handful of fellow residents agreed with Kelly, and challenged the idea that Carter was being threatened at all in the comments of the city’s Facebook post. 

“‘Threats’ or just concerned citizens wanting to ensure filth behaviors and ideas are not deemed okay nor perpetuated in our city?” asked one poster. “I’d like to consider exposing the truth about where she stands and my discontent I presented to the city were all tasteful, non-threatening and deserved. We must put a foot down if we see things we don’t condone being literally paraded around. Not cool.”

However, a large majority of Friendswood residents commented defenses of Carter on the post. 

“Embarrassing behavior by grown adults,” one commenter said. “I’m sad this is Friendswood resident behavior. She had my families support!”

“This is disgusting!” another wrote. “We need to put the friends back in Friendswood. Or rename our town Hatewood.”

“I’m embarrassed to be a long time Friendswood resident today,” a resident posted. “This is truly disgusting behavior to threaten and berate a hometown veteran?!! Shameful!!”

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Carter locked down her social media channels after Kelly posted the photo of her son. The extent of the threats was not immediately clear, and a spokesperson for Friendswood Police Department did not immediately know if detectives were investigating the threats. 

Carter served eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving multiple tours of duty during Operation Iraqi Freedom. When she returned home in 2013 and played as a reserve goalkeeper for the Dash. She also served as assistant coach for teams at Huston–Tillotson University, Sam Houston State University and the University of Houston. She was also assistant coach to the Afghanistan national team from 2016 to 2018 and currently serves as goalkeeper coach for Antigua and Barbuda women’s national football team. 

In her time coaching the Afghan women’s team, Carter was instrumental in speaking out about institutional sexual abuse from the team’s male owners. That outcry led to the eventual lifetime ban of team owner Kerim Kerramudin from FIFA play. Carter, in her role as chair of Turner’s Commission Against Gun Violence, most recently called for immediate action on gun reform from state leaders in the wake of the tragedy in Uvalde. 

The Friendswood parade is still planed to start at 10 a.m. on July 4, although the city said there will be no replacement grand marshal. 



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