Today, outside of the Texas Governor’s Mansion in Austin, a group of roughly 100 Texans gathered to protest the ongoing lockdown of “non-essential activities” under Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order. The executive order extends through the end of April.
The event, organized on Facebook, was attended by a wide variety of people — from advocacy groups like the Texas Freedom Force and Young Americans for Liberty, to Owen Shroyer of Infowars, to families with young children untethered to any organization.
There were certainly some differences of opinion, but the group was united in their desire for society to reopen so that people are free to resume their livelihoods.
As the protest was just beginning, a car drove into the parking lot followed by state troopers who were pulling the driver over.
The alleged violation she was being pulled over for was unclear, but some of the protesters claimed that it was because she had honked her horn.
Some of the protesters began yelling at the police, though one of the apparent organizers of the event tried to calm down the shouting, asking them to let the police do their job.
He said that for all they knew, the police might have pulled her over for a legitimate violation like not wearing a seatbelt.
Several other officers who had been waiting nearby rode up on bicycles and created a barrier between the car and the protest.
Protesters said that they would pay for the woman’s ticket and several continued to shout at the police until the organizers of the protest began telling everyone to remain peaceful and led the attendees in singing the national anthem.
One protester began criticizing Bill Gates, claiming that Dr. Anthony Fauci of the White House task force was “in [Gates’] back pocket,” and argued that the billionaire is responsible for shutting down the economy.
“This is about getting back to work!” interrupted another protester. “That’s what you can tell the Statesman, not this conspiracy crap. We’re good people out here ready to get back to work and take back our freedom, our civil liberties, and our paychecks. That’s why these people are here, not for Alex Jones — get that out of the media. These are good Americans that need to get back to work.”
Many in the crowd cheered him on and the protesters began chanting “Let us work!”
Several of the signs that the protesters were carrying echoed that sentiment. “All jobs are essential,” “COVID-1984,” and “let common sense be common again,” were some of the slogans plastered on the posters.
One young boy carried a sign that read “I want to go back to school.”
State Troopers and Austin Police kept a keen eye on the protest but didn’t intervene.
As the crowd marched toward the State Capitol, one person who was following the protest — though not a part of it — stopped and asked an APD officer why they hadn’t tried to break up the protests if they were violating the social distancing guidelines.
In response to her question, though, the APD officer noted that peacefully protesting is protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution — a contrast from the police department of Raleigh, North Carolina which tweeted that “protesting is a non-essential activity.”
Although this crowd was not nearly as large as those seen in other states, the one hundred protesters in Austin today could be the tip of the iceberg.
In just a few days, a private Facebook group focused on reopening Texas by April 29 has skyrocketed in membership with now over 16,000 users supporting the efforts.
More protests, including a “honk-in” at county courthouses at noon tomorrow, have been scheduled in the coming days.
Jennifer Fleck, a Republican candidate for House District 47, was also at the protest today, keeping a safe distance from where many of the attendees had gathered.
She shared the sentiment that people need to return work and said that Texas should lead the nation in reopening society.
Governor Greg Abbott has scheduled a press conference for noon tomorrow “on Texas’ economic response to COVID-19.”
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.