Texas soldiers, state police maintain presence in 3 major cities following weekend protests turned violent

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This article has been updated throughout

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Hardly a soul was found outside the Texas Capitol on Monday, following two days of protests against police brutality in Texas drawing thousands in the capital city.

The grounds remain closed to the public, with caution tape blocking all entrances, and state police standing side by side with Texas National Guardsmen.

Governor Greg Abbott dispatched resources to the state’s major cities over the weekend. DPS sent more than 1,500 state troopers to Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio on Saturday to assist local law enforcement address protests.

“Texas and America mourn the senseless loss of George Floyd and the actions that led to his death are reprehensible and should be condemned in the strongest terms possible,” Abbott said in a Saturday statement. “As Texans exercise their First Amendment rights, it is imperative that order is maintained and private property is protected.”

The FBI deployed tactical teams to assist state and local law enforcement agencies on Sunday, according to Abbott’s office. The Governor ordered “thousands more troopers” and mobilized more than 1,000 members of the Texas National Guard on Sunday.

“Texans First Amendment rights are absolute and will always be protected,” Abbott said on Sunday in a statement. “But violence, vandalism, and looting will not be tolerated in this state and those found in violation of the law will be arrested and prosecuted.”

By comparison, the one thousand or more soldiers is one-third of the more than 3,000 guardsmen activated for the state’s COVID-19 mission, and it’s far fewer than the more than 17,000 guardsmen activated to respond to Hurricane Harvey.

Military police Soldiers attached to the Texas Army National Guard’s 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade support local law enforcement during a protest in Austin, Texas, on May 31, 2020. On May 30, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott activated elements of the Texas National Guard to augment law enforcement throughout the state in response to civil unrest. The Texas National Guard will be used to support local law enforcement and protect critical infrastructure necessary to the well-being of local communities. (U.S. Army photo by Charles E. Spirtos)

“Texas Guardsmen are trained for a variety of scenarios, including civil unrest,” Texas Military Department press secretary Brandon Jones said by email on Monday. “They will support local law enforcement and protect infrastructure necessary for the well-being of Texas communities.”

“We will continue to serve in our multiple current capacities both at home and abroad,” Jones wrote. “The Texas National Guard is a critical force in the Texas response to COVID-19, and is also supporting border security, and natural disaster preparedness, as well as supporting the overseas warfighting mission.”

Jones said Texas National Guardsmen remained active in Austin, Dallas and Houston on Monday, but the Texas Military Department could not provide broken-down data on how many soldiers were dispatched to which cities.

A spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety indicated that agency was compiling the total number of troopers deployed statewide and how many were sent to each community, but that information was not available as of Monday afternoon. DPS also did not have the number of statewide arrests made by state police related to protests and demonstrations available Monday afternoon.

Abbott declared a state of disaster on Sunday and authorized federal agents to act as Texas officers.

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

Generally, the only ruckus Monday was the sound of State Preservation Board staff power-washing the sidewalk, ridding it of the graffiti left behind from the weekend. An agency spokesperson stated much of the damage to the statehouse and its grounds were superficial and in the process of being fixed.

The graffiti removal was a satisfying scene for Austin’s Kathryn Bednarczyk, who brought art supplies to the Capitol and painted the statehouse on a canvas affixed to an easel.

painting at capitol
Kathryn Bednarczyk, of Austin, paints the Texas Capitol on canvas outside the Capitol grounds on June 1, 2020, following two days of protests in the capital city. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

“I didn’t like all of the graffiti,” she said. “It bothered me a lot to see that, so I got to create my own capital on a canvas that had nothing of that on it and there was no graffiti in the foreground.”

“It’s hard to know how to find a proper format to express your concerns and, for me, making something beautiful, listening to my music with my earbuds and just zoning into the space around me makes me feel more comfortable in my space, which is a hard thing right now for a lot of people,” Bednarczyk said.

“I guess a photo’s worth 1,000 words,” she said.

Abbott will travel to Dallas on Tuesday for an afternoon press conference with law enforcement and local elected leaders from the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The heads of the Texas Military Department and Texas Department of Public Safety will join Abbott for the briefing on state’s response to continued protest violence, according to Abbott aides.

Andy Davis, Alex Hoder and Todd Bynum contributed to this report.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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