Counter-protesters confront group at Texas capitol after governor dedicates monument recognizing African American contributions to the state
Eight people were arrested on Saturday when a small group of protesters calling themselves ‘White Lives Matter’ were confronted by counter-demonstrators supporting Black Lives Matter at the Texas state capitol near where Governor Greg Abbott had earlier dedicated a monument recognizing the contributions of African Americans to the state.
Texas department of public safety spokesman Sgt Victor Taylor said four of the arrests were for assault, two for evading arrest, one for disorderly conduct and one for “interference with public duty”. Two of those arrested were on Capitol grounds and the others on adjacent streets.
“Some protesters assaulted other protesters,” Taylor said. “We don’t know for sure which side they were on. A lot of them were commingled.”
Austin police and state troopers dressed in riot gear and some mounted on horseback had tried to keep the two groups separated.
Taylor said the confrontation did not affect the unveiling of the monument, which was in a different part of the grounds. A state helicopter circled overhead.
About two dozen individuals with the White Lives Matter group, some of whom were armed, demonstrated against what they called the unequal application of hate crimes laws, which they said were applied in a way that favored minorities. The group said it was a coincidence that its protest was held at about the same time as the ceremony for the monument.
White Lives Matter member and protest organizer Ken Reed said into a bullhorn that his group was concerned with “white people’s preservation”.
“You all are anti-white and anti-American,” he told the counter-protesters, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
The White Lives Matter group was shouted down by several hundred counter-protesters, who held up signs that said “Stand Against Hate” and “Black Lives Matter”.
One of them, Marie Catrett, said she came to stand up for the rights of minorities.
“I think they are full of hatred,” Catrett said about the White Lives Matter group. “They don’t represent our community or our values.”
During the unveiling ceremony, Abbott told a crowd in attendance that the monument honored African Americans who helped grow Texas. “The fact is African Americans have shaped this land that we are on today since long before it was even named the state of Texas. They fought for their own freedom. They fought for the freedom of Texas and the freedom of the United States of America,” Abbott said.
The monument is located on the capitol’s south lawn, close to other monuments that honor Confederate soldiers for their service during the civil war.
The new monument features the African American experience in Texas, from exploration in the 1500s to slavery and emancipation to achievement in arts and science.
It will be the 21st monument on the capitol grounds and the second memorial dedicated to a specific ethnic group. Texas installed the Tejano monument to Mexican-American history in 2012.