TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - During a rally organizers said was to “protest the unconstitutional occupation of Portland,” on Sunday, Hank Gilbert’s campaign manager was allegedly assaulted by a group of counter-protesters.
Gilbert, a Democrat from Tyler, is running against U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Republican, for the 1st Congressional District.
The protest took place in Tyler’s downtown square on Sunday afternoon. Ryan Miller, the alleged victim, is Gilbert’s campaign manager.
“Miller was attacked by at least four protesters, some of whom were armed, and sustained blows to the head and other parts of his body, as well as a large gash under his eye,” a press release from the campaign stated. “The incident occurred as officers from the Tyler Police Department drove around the square idly, waving at the Blue Lives Matter counter-protesters who had come to support Gilbert’s opponent. "
According to the press release, counter-protesters disrupted the rally by shouting, “Louie! Louie! Louie!” repeatedly. The press release also claimed the counter-protesters shouted ‘Louie” as Miller was being assaulted.
A police report has been filed with the Tyler Police Department, the press release stated.
Andy Erbaugh, a spokesman for the Tyler Police Department, said TPD officers responded to a report of a fight at the downtown square Sunday afternoon. When the officers arrived at the scene, they broke up the fight, Erbaugh said.
Reports were filed with police and potential charges could be filed at a later time, according to Erbaugh. No arrests were made on-site.
The Tyler PD spokesman also said he didn’t hear anything about the alleged participants of the fight being armed and that he didn’t hear anything about anyone getting injured.
“We had more than 100 people RSVP to participate in this protest, and were flooded with calls, texts, and emails in the 20 minutes before it began with folks telling us they would not be getting out of their cars after seeing the mass of armed counter-protesters who had descended upon the square,” Vince Leibowitz, a consultant for Gilbert, said in the press release.
Gilbert called on the Texas Rangers to investigate how the Tyler Police Department handled the alleged incident. He also said he will be calling on the City of Tyler to do an internal investigation to see if “proper procedures were followed.”
“The Tyler police were idly driving around the square in their patrol cars and waving at the counter-protesters who were heavily armed,” Gilbert said in the press release. “They didn’t get on the square until the violence was well underway and weren’t even near the scene of the actual protest until Ryan had already been beaten up. This is after we were told by the city last week there would be a sufficient police presence downtown for our rally.”
In the press release, Gilbert also said he would be calling on the FBI to investigate the organizers of the counter-protest to determine whether they had intended to engage in pre-meditated violence.
“We fully intend to make sure that felony charges are brought against the person who stole Ryan’s brand new iPhone, which costs enough that theft of that device is a felony in Texas,” Gilbert said in the press release. “We also intend to ensure that those who attacked Ryan are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Before the rally started Sunday, groups of people carrying signs with slogans like “Blue Lives Matter” could be seen around the square. There were also several American and “thin blue line” flags. At least one Donald Trump 2020 flag was visible as well.
Many of the people present around the square before the rally started were openly carrying semiautomatic rifles or holstered pistols, which is legal in the state of Texas.
Prior to the event, Gilbert said that it didn’t have anything to do with his congressional campaign. He said that they organized the rally to protest what he called unconstitutional federal agents in Portland, Oregon, and other major U.S. cities that are arresting rioters. He added they also wanted to show their support for local law enforcement.