Texas Governor Addresses The State's Response To Protest Violence

Jun 2, 2020
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now to Texas, where protests continue over the police killing of George Floyd. In Houston, the mayor and police chief are joining Floyd's family and tens of thousands of protesters in their march today. And in Austin, Police Chief Brian Manley said he was crushed after his officers shot three people, including a pregnant woman and a 20-year-old black protester who is in critical condition after being shot in the head. NPR's Wade Goodwyn joins us now with more from Dallas.

Wade, thanks for joining us.

WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: Hello.

MARTIN: Well, the reactions of the police to these protests in Texas have really run the gamut - I mean, from cooperation and support in Houston and Fort Worth to confrontation and mass arrests in Dallas. What's...

GOODWYN: Yeah, it's...

MARTIN: ...Going on?

GOODWYN: It's been interesting to watch because the cities' departments have not behaved as one might expect, given their histories. In Houston, Police Chief Art Acevedo has gone out of his way to show protesters that he views them as allies. He goes to the protests. He's repeatedly criticized President Trump on TV. And you know, this is a significant change from historic - from Houston, you know, historically, which has suffered from a reputation for law enforcement kicking blacks and Hispanics around without much of any cause. So it's been unusual.

MARTIN: All right. So that's Houston. But then moving to - on to Austin and Dallas, the police response in those cities has been very different, right?

GOODWYN: It has. In Austin, three people were shot by police over the weekend by what the Austin Police Department described as, quote, "less lethal" ammunition. But there's a photo of a pregnant woman protester lying on the ground. She's reportedly screaming, my baby, my baby. That was posted to Twitter. She and her unborn child seem to be recovering, but it's traumatized Austin. And she was shot in the stomach with pellets.

And in Dallas, protesters have been met repeatedly with tear gas and pepper and smoke and mass arrests. And the African American police chief and the black mayor have been largely unapologetic about it. In fact, here's a clip of Police Chief U. Renee Hall from the weekend.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

U RENEE HALL: This police department will not tolerate rogue vandalism. We will not tolerate tearing up our city.

MARTIN: Wade, why do you think that there is such a different approach - particularly, like, the contrast between Dallas and Houston?

GOODWYN: The chief of police in Dallas seems to see protesters as potential adversaries, and therefore, it's your job to thwart them. You know, she's referred to them as being cagey, changing tactics, people she needs to get intel on. Friday night, protesters were surrounded and trapped in a downtown intersection and then tear-gassed. The chief said it was because of vandalism, but there were, you know, lots of protesters there who said they were gassed without provocation. And Lee Daugherty, who's an organizer with the Democratic Socialists of America, is one of them. He was trapped in that street and gassed.

LEE DAUGHERTY: Well, it was chaos, and you had people fleeing. You had people wanting to get out of the area and could not. You know, this is a peaceful protest to demonstrate against a injustice in this country that we've dealt with for too long. And the response from police is tear gas, flash-bangs and brutality.

GOODWYN: You know, there was some vandalism Friday night, but that happened closer to midnight, hours after the tear-gassing. The Dallas Morning News estimated it's been 30 years since the police department used tear gas on a mass protest, and now it's twice in the last few days.

MARTIN: Well, let's just state the obvious, Wade. Many of the reasons that people have been advocating for more African Americans in policing is because of scenes like this. Is this surprising that this is the chief's response here?

GOODWYN: It has surprised me, kind of - you know, especially the tear gas. I get it that protecting property is a priority. But the protesters were trapped by police last night as they crossed a long bridge across the Trinity River. So it doesn't appear this standoff is on the verge of going away.

MARTIN: That's NPR's Wade Goodwyn in Dallas.

Wade, thanks.

GOODWYN: You're quite welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.