Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is activating the Texas National Guard and deploying state troopers to the state's largest cities as protests escalate over the death of Houston native George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
More than 1,500 Department of Public Safety Troopers were sent to Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin "to maintain public safety," Abbott's office said in a news release, which noted more resources would be added if needed.
“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 written statement. “As Texans exercise their 1st Amendment rights, it is imperative that order is maintained and private property is protected.”
Abbott's office says the governor has spoken with Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, and Austin Mayor Steve Adler and city law enforcement leaders.
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Citing operational security, the Dallas Police Department did not provide a count of the number of state troopers deployed to the city.
As of Saturday afternoon, protests underway in downtown Dallas remained peaceful. Dallas police asked drivers to avoid the area due to streets being blocked by the demonstrations.
About 400 troopers were sent to Houston, the city said in a tweet Saturday afternoon.
Authorities in both Houston and Dallas on Friday used pepper spray and tear gas to disperse crowds that numbered in the hundreds. Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall said officers were making sure the protest was peaceful when the violence began.
"Then all of a sudden bricks start hailing, hitting our squad cars, hitting the officers ... I almost got hit with a brick," Hall said.
It was not clear how many were arrested in Dallas. One police officer received a non-life-threatening injury during the melee and police vehicles had windows and windshields shattered and tires slashed, Hall said.
Hundreds of chanting, placard-brandishing protesters marched through the streets of downtown Fort Worth on Friday afternoon, escorted by police.
In Houston, Police Chief Art Acevedo said nearly 200 people were arrested Friday during a protest in which many blocked an Interstate 45 ramp and a highway.
Those arrested "participated in unlawful assemblies," Acevedo said Saturday on Twitter. "Most will be charged with obstructing a roadway,"
Protests have spread across the U.S., fueled by outrage over Floyd's death. On Friday, the white Minneapolis police officer who knelt on Floyd's neck was arrested and charged with murder.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo had said he welcomed the peaceful afternoon rally, before the protests escalated into disorder.
“We stand with them protesting what happened in Minnesota,” he said. “I’m happy that they’re here today because people need to be heard, voices need to be heard.”