Texas organizers say local police did not protect protesters

Paul Benson, left, clashes with Eric Artmire, one of many protesters who came to support a Back the Blue event happening at the same time and location as Democratic Congressional candidate Hank Gilbert's Protest for Portland rally on the downtown square in Tyler, Texas, on Sunday, July 26, 2020. Gilbert is running for election to the U.S. House to represent Texas' 1st Congressional District. (Sarah A. Miller/Tyler Morning Telegraph via AP)

Associated Press (07/27)

WEATHERFORD, Texas (AP) — Community leaders say local law enforcement in Texas did not protect protesters from opposing groups after weekend rallies turned violent.

Local law enforcement disbanded a protest in Weatherford over the removal of a Confederate monument, saying it was unlawful after a confrontation with counter-protesters. But organizer Tony Crawford, of Parker County Progressives, said police did not seem to know what to do and failed to protect the protesters.

Crawford’s group and Fort Worth-based Enough is Enough coordinated the protest on Saturday that supported removal of the statue. The groups had planned to march from a city park to the Parker County Courthouse. But they were met with hundreds of counter-protesters who thought the statue would be damaged.

Some in the crowd carried Confederate flags, yelled racial slurs and threw water bottles, Crawford said.

“It got to a point where I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to get everybody out of there safely,” Crawford said. “We don’t want to touch that statue because anything that happens to that statue is going to get blamed on me.”

Jim Webster, a former Parker County commissioner, was among the counter-protesters. He said citizens stood up to bullies that came to take down their statue.

Videos show a counter-protester punching a protester in the head. Others show a counter-protester brandishing a knife and a man charging into protesters.

Parker County Judge Pat Deen said two people were arrested. Weatherford police did not immediately respond to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s request for comment on Sunday.

Deen said the state chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy owns the statue and they are planning to move it to another location once they can fund the move.

Deen said the county commissioners will hold a special meeting Thursday “to agree and approve the statue can remain” till that group has the funds to move it.

On Sunday, a Portland Protest Rally and a Back the Blue Rally in Tyler turned violent. Democratic congressional candidate Hank Gilbert of Tyler held the original rally, while a Back the Blue Rally started later on the downtown square.

One person was choked, a woman said she was punched and Gilbert’s campaign manager Ryan Miller was cut on the face. Supporters of Gilbert’s opponent, Congressman Louie Gohmert, brutally beat and assaulted Miller, according to Gilbert’s campaign staff’s Sunday press release.

But supporters of President Donald Trump said they were provoked.

Tyler Police took statements from protesters, but Gilbert said that was not enough.

“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.

Andy Erbaugh, the department’s public information officer, said officers responded quickly and no arrests were made.

Gilbert is calling on Governor Greg Abbott and the city of Tyler to investigate the Tyler Police Department.

https://apnews.com/0ba37004902d0ebe433b3ca867582185

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistribute

Posted in: Community Relations, Disorderly Conduct, Police, Protests/Civil Unrest, Public Safety, Racial Issues

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