A police officer stands guard as Austin Fire Department puts out a car fire under Interstate 35 in Austin May 30 during a protest over the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died in Minneapolis police custody. (RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/Austin American-Statesman via AP)
A police officer stands guard as Austin Fire Department puts out a car fire under Interstate 35 in Austin May 30 during a protest over the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died in Minneapolis police custody.

RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/Austin American-Statesman via AP

Gov. Greg Abbott declares state of disaster after George Floyd protests (Video)

May 31, 2020

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Sunday afternoon that the entire state of Texas will be placed under a disaster declaration in response to demonstrators in several Texas cities protesting the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed Monday in Minneapolis police custody.

The declaration allowed Abbott to designate federal law enforcement officers to perform the duties of peace officers in Texas.

Thousands of protesters marched in Texas cities Friday and Saturday, outraged after Floyd was filmed crying out for help as a white police officer pinned him to the ground with a knee to his neck. The officer, Derek Chauvin, was later arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

“Every Texan and every American has the right to protest, and I encourage all Texans to exercise their First Amendment rights,” Abbott said in a statement. “However, violence against others and the destruction of property is unacceptable and counterproductive.”

His announcement comes a day after he activated the Texas National Guard “in response to protest violence” across the state. In several of the state’s large metropolitan areas — including Houston, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio — protesters clashed with police who sometimes used rubber bullets and tear gas.

Abbott also sent state resources to Houston, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio on Saturday afternoon and said he’s spoken to the mayors of all four cities, as well as law enforcement officials. He said Sunday that he also increased those resources for cities throughout Texas and that the FBI has deployed tactical teams to assist state and local law enforcement.

“Violence, vandalism and looting will not be tolerated in this state, and those found in violation of the law will be arrested and prosecuted,” he said.

The Texas Department of Public Safety sent more than 1,500 troopers on Saturday to assist local police departments. On Sunday, Abbott ordered thousands more troopers to various Texas cities and more than 1,000 members of the National Guard to assist the Texas Department of Public Safety and law enforcement in their efforts.

The governor has previously called Floyd’s death “horrific” and the “consequence of poor police work.”

His declaration Sunday comes as other local, statewide and national leaders have called for peaceful demonstrations.

“As protests have turned violent in various areas across the state, it is crucial that we maintain order, uphold public safety and protect against property damage or loss,” Abbott said in a statement Sunday announcing the statewide disaster declaration. “By authorizing additional federal agents to serve as Texas Peace Officers we will help protect people’s safety while ensuring that peaceful protesters can continue to make their voices heard.”

Prior to Abbott’s announcement, several Texas cities took measures into their own hands. On Saturday evening, the mayor of San Antonio imposed a curfew as a result of escalating tensions due to the protests.

In Dallas, where officials defended the use of tear gas at protests for Floyd, Dallas Police Chief Reneé Hall said Sunday afternoon that a 7 p.m. curfew will go into effect Sunday and end at 6 a.m. “for the next several days,” The Dallas Morning News reported. Later in the day, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson issued a local disaster declaration for the next week; it allows the city manager to impose curfews, along with other emergency measures.

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    Jessica MeyerJun 1, 2020 at 10:22 am

    In response to the killing of Martin Luther King Jr, 110 American cities started rioting. After the 6th day of riots, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 was passed. The riots will continue until something changes.

    Now isn’t the time to be more worried about buildings that are insured than the people dying on our streets at the hands of the people who swore to serve and protect.

    I watched a black man get shot in the back of the head last night. It was live streamed, APD killed that man. The only people able to help him were the protesters. They picked up his limp body and carried him to the police station.

    Multiple videos are surfacing from around Austin of peaceful protesters being sprayed with CS gas, rubber bullets, and “non lethal” bean bags.

    It was broadcast over police scanners and later confirmed by an anonymous EMT that they went to live rounds. Live rounds on civilians who were unarmed and had their hands in the air.

    Last night was the worst show of humanity this city has ever had, all on the part of the police officers.

    Gov. Abbott, if you truly care take off the gear and go talk to people. Be human. Be kind. And listen to understand, not to respond.

    -Ret. PFC Noyes