Open Source In Short: Geolocating a US Far-Right Fight Night

When white nationalists met up in a small town in north Texas to take part in yet another fight night event, we set about locating where it took place.

On March 8, 2024, a Telegram channel associated with US far-right extremist Robert Rundo posted eight photos of the combat sports event (Bellingcat is not naming the outlet to avoid amplification). The outlet promised that a promotional “documentary” film of the event would be “coming soon” and claimed the event took place in north Texas. In addition, the outlet claimed that Rundo’s far-right fashion brand was responsible for organising the event.

Bellingcat only needed the very first photo in the post, and a few minutes of web searching, to geolocate the event to a hall available for rent in Muenster, a town of fewer than 2,000 people in north Texas.

Here’s how we did it:

A photo posted alongside the announcement of the fight night on Telegram. The image has been cropped on the sides from the original to obscure branding and avoid amplification.

The first hint was the American flag.

In a Telegram chat discussing the event, one person commented on the presence of the large US flag hung in the building. Someone who claimed to have attended the event replied “it was part of the venues [sic] decoration so it couldn’t really be removed.” This led Bellingcat to assume that other public photos of the venue would likely have a large American flag hanging inside.

The second hint — and the one that led Bellingcat right to the venue — was a small detail on the table in the front of the image.

The letters ‘MVFD’ are visible on the table (though upside down), suggesting that the table belongs to a volunteer fire department (i.e., ‘VFD: Volunteer Fire Department’).

A cropped and rotated version of the photo showing the letters ‘MVFD.’

With this clue, Bellingcat then searched for ‘MVFD Texas’.

We found results for several towns beginning with the letter ‘M’ in north Texas whose fire departments used that abbreviation, and checked available images from these towns to see if anything resembled the venue seen in the photos.

Scrolling results from Muenster, Bellingcat noticed a photo of a similar-looking venue, including a similar ceiling, windows and two doors at one end.

Next, we searched for “hall Muenster Texas” and found more photos of a venue — Fuhrmann Hall at the Heritage Park Events Center, a venue available to the public to rent. 

We were able to match the the large American flag, the ceiling, the air conditioners and the light fixtures and doors to the images posted in Telegram.

Thus, Bellingcat was able to locate the Patriot Front event to the Fuhrmann Hall located an hour’s drive from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

Bellingcat contacted the Heritage Park Events Center and asked them whether they were aware that they had rented their facilities to representatives of a far-right network. We had not received a response at time of publication.

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