For hours, the Saturday night protest in Dallas was peaceful. Protesters started outside police headquarters, where Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall was photographed looking down at them from a window. Their signs shouted “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe” in honor of George Floyd and every other Black person who has been subjected to police brutality.
Eventually, they began to march through Dallas where dozens of police officers were stationed. In downtown, around 10:15 p.m., the first protesters started to feel the effects of tear gas. When protesters met police, the yelling began. After midnight, some of the protesters escalated the situation. While the majority tried to remain peaceful, others broke windows, looted stores, and damaged police cars. Police responded by firing off flashbang grenades and arresting more than 70 people.
In the wake of protests in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio that resulted in looting, injuries, tear gas, and arrests, Gov. Greg Abbott has declared a State of Disaster in Texas, allowing him to designate federal agents as Texas peace officers. He believes it is a vital step that must be taken in order to ensure public safety and prevent property damage.
He made the proclamation in a prepared statement: “Every Texan and every American has the right to protest and I encourage all Texans to exercise their First Amendment rights.”
However, Abbott continues, violence and “destruction of property” are antithetical to the protesters’ cause and cannot be allowed to continue.
On Saturday, Abbott deployed more than 1,500 Department of Public Safety officers and the National Guard to assist local law enforcement, not only in maintaining order but also in protecting the rights of peaceful protesters “to make their voices heard.”
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The fear of protests devolving into violence is great. Even greater is the fear that some of the protests are being turned violent on purpose. On a Facebook page for conservative Texans, for example, a photo of a shipment of bricks was shared with great alarm because it was allegedly in the path protesters planned to take through Frisco. The Frisco police department investigated and put out a statement that the bricks were unrelated to the protest, and were for a Home Owners Association project.
This rumor was not an isolated incident; similar false posts about bricks being delivered along suburban protest routes cropped up and had to be addressed in Plano and Allen as well. One angry commenter wrote, “I’ll give you some advice a law enforcement friend of mine once told me … if they come on your property, shoot them, make sure they’re dead, and don’t call the cops until all the fluids have run out of the body!”
Frisco’s protest Monday afternoon was peaceful. About a 1,000 people showed up, some with children.
The hours leading up to Monday’s protest were riddled with threats against the protesters and fears that the protest would turn violent, largely due to misinformation about strategically placed bricks.
In an address Monday, President Trump said that ANTIFA will be declared a terrorist organization and warned that if local or state law leaders did not take proper action, then he would “deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”
“Who’s ready to open carry tonight?” wrote a Frisco man on his Facebook page. He had also spent his day flooding Frisco Police Department Facebook page with memes and images of violent riots. “Wrong city to start s*** in.”
Another comment on the department’s page reads, “Don’t just stand there and let officers and bystanders get hurt and property get destroyed. The moment they attack. Take em down.”
Protesters marched for over two hours down the streets of Frisco, police cars circling nearby for their protection. Some brought their children. No bricks were thrown.
A couple of Frisco police officers also joined the march in full uniform. Frisco’s Mayor Jeff Cheney and Frisco Police Chief David Shilson also participated, going straight from the march into a town hall meeting.
In a statement released hours before the march, Cheney said, “We stand with those organizing or participating in today’s peaceful protest and support your right to do so. Our officers are working alongside organizers to promote their safety and the safety of our community.”