Gov. Abbott issues statewide disaster declaration in response to violent protests

Declaration authorizes federal agents to serve as Texas peace officers

Gov. Abbott issues statewide disaster declaration in response to violent protests
Texas Governor Greg Abbott (Source: KCBD Video)

AUSTIN, Texas (KLTV) - Amid ongoing protests over the death of George Floyd, many of which have turned violent, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has declared a state of disaster.

As part of his disaster declaration, Abbott has activated the National Guard and has authorized federal agents to serve as Texas peace officers.

"Every Texan and every American has the right to protest and I encourage all Texans to exercise their First Amendment rights," Abbott said in a press release. "However, violence against others and the destruction of property is unacceptable and counterproductive. As protests have turned violent in various areas across the state, it is crucial that we maintain order, uphold public safety, and protect against property damage or loss.”

Abbott added that authorizing additional federal agents to serve as Texas peace officers will help protect the Lone Star State’s residents and ensure that peaceful protesters can continue to make their voices heard.”

The disaster declaration states that it was issued because “there have been threats and incidents of violence in several cities across Texas that endangered public safety.” It also states the events have caused or threatened widespread or severe damage, injury, and property loss, “among other harms,” while Texas is responding to the COVID-19 crisis.

Whereas, while all Americans are entitled to exercise their First Amendment rights, it is imperative that order is maintained, all persons are kept safe and healthy, and property is protected; and whereas, peaceful protestors, many of whom are responding to the senseless taking of life by the reprehensible actions of a few, should themselves be protected from harm,” the disaster declaration states.

In the declaration, Abbott said that in response to the threats of violence and looting, he has activated the Texas National Guard and has deployed numerous state resources, including Texas Department of Public Safety troopers.

Abbott also authorized federal agents to serve as Texas peace officers, citing Section 418.011 of the Texas Government Code, which states that the governor may suspend the provisions of any regulatory statute prescribing the procedures for conduct of state business or the orders or rules of a state agency if strict compliance with the provisions, orders, or rules would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with a disaster.”

Another press release from the governor’s office stated that in addition to the DPS troopers Abbott deployed to Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin and the more than 1,000 National Guard troops that have been activated to assist DPS efforts, the governor sent additional statewide resources to cities all across the state on Saturday. Also, the FBI has deployed tactical teams to assist state and local law enforcement.

“Texans First Amendment rights are absolute and will always be protected,” Abbott said in the press release. “But violence, vandalism, and looting will not be tolerated in this state and those found in violation of the law will be arrested and prosecuted.”

For the full text of Abbott’s disaster declaration, click here.

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