Dallas Police Chief Reneé Hall gave a stern warning today to demonstrators in the city.
“If you break the law, we will arrest you,” Hall said in a press conference.
Hall was responding to protesters’ decision on Monday night to navigate onto Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, even though authorities had warned them it was unsafe and illegal. The police chief stated that by marching onto the bridge, demonstrators were guilty of obstructing a highway.
Demonstrators are protesting unjust police violence against black Americans after the death of George Floyd, a native of Houston who was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Memorial Day.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner in Minneapolis ruled on Monday that Floyd’s death was a homicide, and the fired police officer who killed Floyd has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
The Department of Justice is investigating Floyd’s death for possible civil rights violations.
Hall emphasized that she supports the First Amendment rights of protesters, and that she disagreed with characterizing Monday night’s protests as “chaos.”
However, she did note that Friday’s and Saturday’s protests “erupted into criminal activity, vandalism, and looting.”
On Sunday, the City of Dallas instated a curfew of 7 p.m. for the downtown area in response to the civil unrest.
When a member of the news media asked about the optics of the department’s enforcement measures, Hall said, “I can’t deal with perception, I only deal with facts.”
After Hall’s press conference, Governor Greg Abbott appeared in Dallas with Hall and several other state and local officials.
Abbott declared his support for the peaceful protests of Floyd’s death.
“What happened to George Floyd is a horrific act of police brutality,” Abbott emphasized.
The governor described Texas as a leader in criminal justice reform and underscored legislation passed in Texas to address inequities and flaws in the criminal justice system, including wrongful convictions.
Abbott added that demonstrations should be peaceful and violence is not welcome in the Dallas-Fort Worth area or anywhere in Texas.
“There’s not a police officer in Texas who isn’t sickened by the murder of George Floyd,” said Lt. Col. Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
“He was murdered,” McCraw emphasized.
Fort Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus echoed the frustration over Floyd’s death. When a reporter asked Kraus about his kneeling in solidarity during a march in Fort Worth, Kraus stated that the focus should remain on “the murder of George Floyd.”
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price commended “by and large peaceful protests” in her city.
“Texans are lawful citizens,” Price added.
Price recalled the death of Atatiana Jefferson, a woman killed by a Fort Worth police officer inside Jefferson’s home.
While there was violence and destruction of property in Dallas, it appears some accounts may have been exaggerated.
U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) tweeted on Monday that a widely-circulated video showing an attack on a man in Dallas did not result in his death and that he was not a business owner. Cornyn explained that the man was in stable condition at a hospital and warned of “false information” on social media.
In the press conference, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson expressed his affection for Dallas, and remained optimistic that things would improve. He noted that most of the people wreaking havoc in Dallas were not from the city.
“This isn’t their home,” he said.
The mayor empathized with the concerns of peaceful protesters and announced he has called a special meeting of the Dallas City Council on Friday that will address “the events of the past week” and “what [Dallas] can do better.”
Johnson thanked the governor for the resources the state has provided to restore order.
Abbott noted that Texas would not request tactical assistance from Washington, D.C. to keep the peace.
“Texans can take care of Texans,” Abbott said.
Disclosure: Unlike almost every other media outlet, The Texan is not beholden to any special interests, does not apply for any type of state or federal funding, and relies exclusively on its readers for financial support. If you’d like to become one of the people we’re financially accountable to, click here to subscribe.
Hayden Sparks is a reporter for The Texan in Dallas. During the academic year, he coaches high school competitive speech and debate and has also been involved in community theater and politics. A native Texan, Hayden served as a delegate at the Republican Party of Texas Convention in 2016. He is on track to receive a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Liberty University. In his free time, Hayden is known to take walks around the neighborhood while listening to random music on Spotify.