As News Center 23 continues to dig for answers over armed Texas Militia members at Governor Greg Abbott’s campaign event in McAllen, Texas lawmakers are also questioning if there was prior contact before the event.
State Representative Gina Hinojosa (D-District 49) has submitted a Texas Public Information Act echoing the same questions News Center 23’s Derick Garcia asked. Rep. Hinojosa asked in part ” “Was there an agreement with you, a member of your staff, or your campaign with the militia to provide security or any other service at your event in McAllen…”
In the heavily democrat voting area of the Rio Grande Valley, the chants of “Hey hey ho ho Abbott has got to go” are a norm and Saturday was no different. On Friday, Governor Greg Abbott launched his reelection campaign and less than 24 hours later he was at the Texas-Mexico Border city of McAllen. His supporters were at his side along. While Republican lawmakers are typically met with protestors, this event saw new faces in the form of the Texas Militia. The make-shift-military presence raised red flags with protestors outside Lone Star Bar-B-Q because of the lack of actual law enforcement presence. The Militia members presumably did not break any laws as Texas law allows the open carry of rifles. Leaders in the protest movement have accountability questions with Governor Abbott’s campaign.
“It was definitely a surreal experience to go through” said La Union De Pueblo Entero spokesperson John Michael-Torres. He’s fought for equal rights in Texas for 7 years and has never seen armed militia members at a protest or event, “I think that Abbott’s campaign should definitely clarify what their role was there because in saying nothing they are allowing them to represent them in such a public event, in such an important event. The image is that they were there representing him and he needs to clarify what their role was”
News Center 23 contacted Governor Abbott’s campaign office to ask if the militia members were sought out for protection, John Wittman explained, “The governor has a security detail which is provided by the Department of Public Safety and everywhere the governor goes, DPS provides security including on Saturday in the Rio Grande Valley”. Wittman went on to say, in no way did Abbott’s camp have contact with Texas Militia members ahead of the visit.
Protestors such as Torres feel their presence sends a divisive message, “If politicians truly want to meet with Valley residents to talk about solutions, we are welcome to that and we want to see that and I think it’s a disservice to allow armed individuals to be out there representing you when we need to do so much more to bring people together in the state.”