UPDATE: All In For Equality: a coalition including representation from ACLU of Texas, Equality Texas, Texas Freedom Network, Lambda Legal, Transgender Education Network of Texas and HRC, has issued the following statement in response to the incident today at the Texas Capitol that included the arrest of activist and TFN Organizing Director Adri Pérez: “We are deeply disturbed by and closely monitoring what has happened at the Texas Capitol. We witnessed violence and arrests today against Texans, many of whom are queer and transgender and who would be harmed directly by this bill.
“Hundreds of people came to the Capitol to express their concerns about a bill that would ban life-saving health care for transgender youth. That bill was halted today based on a procedural point of order, but Texas lawmakers are still threatening to advance it.
“We urge them to show compassion to transgender youth and will hold them to account to protect the freedoms of all Texans.”
ORIGINAL POST: As members of the Texas House of Representatives prepared today (Tuesday, May 2) to vote on legislation that would ban gender-affirming healthcare for transgender minors in the state, LGBTQ advocates and allies jammed into the House gallery began chanting, singing and unfurling banners calling for the anti-trans bill to be defeated.
That prompted Speaker of the House Dade Phelan to order the state police to clear the gallery just minutes before the vote on SB 14 was delayed until later this week. But protesters stayed in the lobby outside the House gallery, continuing to chant and sing until a state trooper using a bullhorn ordered them to leave and other officers began ushering them down the stairs.
However, two of the protesters got into a shoving match with troopers “that lasted about 10 seconds,” according to the Texas Tribune, with officers eventually “handcuffing one individual and leading them away.”
A photo posted by the Tribune, taken by Bob Daemmrich, shows four state troopers surrounding a man in the gallery, who is wearing a black t-shirt with what appears the be the “Champion” sportswear logo repeated in rainbow colors. The man is on his knees with the troopers behind him, pulling his arms backward.
However, the protester taken away in handcuffs after the scuffle in the lobby appears to have been Adri Pérez, organizing director for the Texas Freedom Network.
A 33-second long video of the incident posted on Twitter by Spectrum News 11 reporter Charlotte Scott shows Pérez being suddenly grabbed from behind by one trooper, and several other officers converge, with some focused on pushing away two or three other activists who had moved toward Pérez, while three of the troopers wrestled Pérez to the ground. One of the three sits on Pérez’s back, while another handcuffs the activist and a third holds Pérez’s feet.
The video, which shows a significant disparity in size between Pérez and the troopers wrestling him to the ground, then ends as an individual wearing a polo-type shirt with the Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigations Division emblem on it stepping in front of the camera and signaling for Scott to stop filming.
The video does not show what happened before Pérez was tackled to the floor. He appears to have been standing at the back of a crowd of chanting protesters who were making their way down the stairs.
In posting the video on Twitter, Scott wrote: “DPS officers took down and handcuffed a few demonstrators after they were removed from the House Gallery. They were escorted out of the Texas Capitol. I was asked to leave too, but I identified as press.”
Texas Signal, a “BIPOC-led, unabashedly progressive media company in Texas, retweeted Scott’s video, commenting, “Texas Republicans have gone full fascist. @TFN advocate @AdriPerezTX was forcibly put on the floor by DPS.”
The Tribune notes that the large crowd of LGBTQ activists had been at the State Capitol since early this morning, waiting for the House to take up SB 14.
— Tammye Nash