DALLAS, Texas (KLTV) - During a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Greg Abbott said while Texas will work to protect residents’ First Amendment right to peacefully protest, violence, looting, and vandalism will not be tolerated.
The press conference was held in Dallas. Also in attendance were U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Nealy Cox, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, Gen. Tracy Norris, the commander of the Texas National Guard, Col. Steve McCraw, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, and the chiefs of the Dallas and Fort Worth police departments.
“The death of George Floyd was clearly a horrific act of police brutality,” Abbott said. “We must ensure that something like that won’t happen here in Texas. Millions of people are seeking justice for Mr. Floyd’s death, and they are rightfully angry,”
Abbott said that everyone in America has a right to make their voices heard and air their grievances heard.
“However, violence, looting, and vandalism have absolutely no place in Dallas, Fort Worth, or anywhere else in Texas,” Abbott said.
The violence and unrest that has been sparked all over the country have obscured the message that the peaceful protesters are trying to get across, Abbott said.
Abbott said he has sent more than 1,000 DPS troopers to Texas cities like Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio to keep the peace. He added that hundreds of Texas National Guard troops have been deployed to the Dallas Fort Worth area.
During the question and answer part of the press conference, Abbott said that Texas will not be seeking help from the U.S. military to keep the peace.
“We know that Texans can take care of Texans,” Abbott said.
The governor said local, county, and state officials will be working with the FBI and U.S. attorneys to prosecute people who commit criminal acts during or after protests.
Abbott explained that law enforcement officials have learned that some of the criminal acts being done in conjunction with the protests are being done by people from out of state. He added these individuals are hijacking peaceful protests to loot and steal.
Law enforcement officials at every level will be working to restore public safety and calm, Abbott said.
“Our work will not be done until justice, equality, and fairness are available in every part of Texas,” Abbott said.
Abbott touted several laws that he has signed that deal with reforming the criminal justice system, including one that requires police officers to wear body cameras on their uniforms. He said that the Innocence Project has labeled Texas as the “gold standard’ for innocence reform.
"Texans can overcome any challenges,” Abbott said. “If we can remedy the injustices that have occurred in our African-American community and heal the divide, it will help Texas remain the greatest state in the United States.”
Later, Johnson spoke and said that the wound caused by racism won’t heal itself. He said he loves Dallas, Texas, and America, and said he, like the other elected officials there, got into government to help people.
Johnson said blacks and other Americans have the right to express their legitimate fears, concerns, and issues with the justice system.
“We should hear them and respect their right to express themselves,” Johnson said.
Echoing what Abbott said, Johnson said the City of Dallas will not tolerate people who exploit peaceful protests for their own personal gain or to cause mayhem. He added that most of the people causing trouble in the DFW area, don’t live there, don’t pay taxes there, and don’t have property there.
“These people cause trouble, knowing that they don’t have to live with the consequences,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the last two months or so have been difficult times for Dallas residents with the pandemic, recent economic turmoil caused by the shutdown, and now, violence and looting.
Price said that Fort Worth started its curfew last night and that some of the peaceful protesters there continued despite it. She said that Forth Police Department chiefs and officers defused the situation by kneeling in prayer with the protesters and listening to what they had to say.
“People of color deserve to be heard,” Price said.
McCraw said that the DPS will be working with the FBI to prosecute any and all agitators that commit criminal acts during protests. He said they will ensure due process is followed and obtain arrest warrants for these people.
The DPS director said that many of the people looting or committing vandalism are associated with violent extremist groups from out of state. Giving an example, McCraw said many of the people who allegedly looted the Target store in Austin recently were associated with Antifa, a far-left group with a tendency to commit violent acts.
In response to a question from a reporter, McCraw said even though many white supremacist groups are active in Texas, there is no evidence that indicates they took part in any of the looting or other criminal acts.
The protests and criminal acts that have been occurring all across the United States were sparked by the death of Texas native George Floyd, who died while he was in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department. Peaceful protests have occurred in Tyler the last several nights.
A now-viral video shows Minneapolis PD Officer Derek Chauvin with his knee on Floyd’s neck for at least eight minutes. During that time, Floyd said he couldn’t breathe and begged for help.
Since then, Chauvin has been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter, according to the Associated Press.