Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson blamed “outsiders” Tuesday for sparking violence among peaceful protests in Dallas over the past five days in response to the death of George Floyd. But arrest data provided by the city of Dallas shows nearly all the people who were arrested in protests this past weekend are from Dallas or the surrounding areas.
“The violence, vandalism and theft that we saw committed by some groups of people over the weekend is not reflective of the city that I know,” Johnson said at the Tuesday press conference, sitting alongside Gov. Greg Abbott and other state and North Texas officials. “And much of it was perpetrated by people who are not residents of the city of Dallas. They don't pay taxes here. It's not their property they're destroying.”
Johnson also said the city “will not tolerate those who want to come into our city and exploit these peaceful protests.”
The Dallas Police Department arrested 185 people between Friday and Monday morning, according to the data provided by the mayor’s office. Only seven people arrested were from outside of Texas, and 172 of the 185 arrests were of people residing in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Seventy-five of those arrested over the weekend were residents of the city of Dallas. Defending the mayor’s comments, Tristan Hallman, a spokesman for Johnson, said the data shows that more than half of the people arrested are “not actually in the city of Dallas.”
Johnson is “mayor of the city of Dallas, not of the Dallas-Fort Worth area,” Hallman said to The Texas Tribune.
Another 23 of the arrests made over the weekend in Dallas were residents of neighboring Tarrant County. Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, who spoke at Tuesday’s press conference, was not immediately available to comment. Neither was Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley.
At the same press conference Tuesday, Abbott similarly attributed acts of property damage and theft during protests across the state to people “coming into Texas from across state lines.”
“Some of the violence that we’re seeing — that’s not being done by people who reside in Dallas or even in Texas,” Abbott said. “It’s committed by criminals who are hijacking peaceful protests in order to plunder and in order to loot.”
The assertion comes on the heels of a Monday announcement that Abbott is working with four U.S. attorneys to federally prosecute anyone from outside of Texas who’s arrested for “looting, violence, or other destructive acts.” Anyone arrested and charged with these things will be taken into federal custody, Abbott’s office said.
Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw echoed Abbott’s comment.
“I can tell you, I don't mind advertising this, we do have special agents embedded trying to identify criminals that are leveraging these or using this as an opportunity,” McCraw said. “There are individuals that have been indicated that came from out of state.”
McCraw referred to the looting of a Target in Austin, which he claimed was organized by antifa, a loosely organized radical group fighting the far-right and fascism.
Protesters across the state and nation are calling for justice after the death of Floyd, a black man who was killed while in Minneapolis police custody. Footage from a now-viral video showed that Floyd died after a white officer kneeled on his neck long past the point when he lost consciousness. Floyd was handcuffed at the time when officer Derek Chauvin put him into the chokehold.
Chauvin has been fired from the Minneapolis police department and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Three other police officers shown in the video alongside Chauvin were also fired.
Giselle López Estrada protested Friday and Saturday in Dallas because she's “sick of racial injustice in Texas and the whole nation.” López Estrada is an organizer with March for Our Lives, which calls for legislation to prevent gun violence. She said she recognized the group to be “mostly from Dallas.”
While she was protesting Saturday night, state police asked López Estrada, 20, where she was from. She said she’s from Pleasant Grove — a suburb just 10 miles from the downtown area — but the officers claimed she wasn’t from Dallas, López Estrada said.
“No, I’m from Dallas,” López Estrada said she responded.
López Estrada said Abbott’s and Johnson’s comments felt “drafted” and that the public officials are focusing on the wrong narrative. She said she had hoped Johnson would lead a protest rather than attack it.
“They keep talking about the looting, but they don’t talk about the protest,” López Estrada said. “I just wish they would try to focus more on the messaging and what happened and what needs to change.”