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U.S. Capitol Attack Has Some Texas Lawmakers Feeling Wary As State Legislature Opens In Austin

The Texas State Capitol's house chamber.
Wikimedia Commons

Safety is at the top of mind for many lawmakers, as protests are planned at the state Capitol on Tuesday to coincide with the first day of the legislative session.

The 87th Texas legislative session kicks off Tuesday. After last week’s attack on the U.S. Capitol, many in the state have turned their attention to Austin and security measures at the state Capitol.

State House Representative Michelle Beckley, a Democrat who serves southeast Denton County, said she has concerns.

"You know, there’s supposed to be protests on the day we’re swearing-in, and we haven’t been given anything, any information that they’re going to increase security," Beckley said. "The governor has been completely quiet. The current speaker, who I think currently has COVID, we’re getting nothing from him."

"But honestly, I’d be handling it a lot differently. I’d be sending out ‘this is what we’re planning.’ So at least, we could see some coordination going. But we are getting almost no information and that’s very disconcerting.”

State House Representative Ana-Maria Ramos, a Democrat from North Texas, said she’s concerned that pro-Trump extremists, like the ones who attacked the U.S. Capitol, may come to Austin too.

“Oh, it’s absolutely concerning, but I just got off a call with Texas DPS and the Capitol safety team and they assured us that the National Guard will be on hand on Tuesday,” she said. “But they also told us that some of the protesters have said they plan to block the doors to the Capitol.”

Ramos said she thinks protests at the Capitol are ‘not a big deal.’ But she also thinks that Republican lawmakers, like Governor Greg Abbott, could help reduce the chances of violence if he spoke up.

“These officers are putting their lives on the line for us," Ramos said. And Governor Abbott is always talking about ‘Blue Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter.' He should speak up because these people can hurt these Capitol Police officers as well, right? 'Cause we saw that happen. It literally happened less than a week ago.”

Fellow Democrat and Texas House Representative John Turner also believes personal safety and security at the Capitol should be top of mind for lawmakers.

“We know that the sorts of extremism and violence we saw in Washington was executed by a small minority of people, but it’s not confined to D.C. It can appear anywhere, so it has to be on our minds.”

State House Representative Ramon Romero, a Democrat from Fort Worth, said he's concerned about the protests on Tuesday too. But he has faith in law enforcement.

“It’s unfortunate that right now lawmakers when you’re coming to do the job of the people of Texas, you have to be on that high alert," he said. "But if I know one thing is that DPS is always done a really great job of making lawmakers feel safe. Making me, personally, feel safe. And I can tell you they’ve done a fabulous job.”

Rep. Beckley also noted that Texans showing up with guns at the Capitol is pretty normal so she’s not too worried. Still, because of concerns about COVID-19, Beckley said she will not be attending the swearing-in ceremony.

“I don’t really worry about it. I mean, you worry about it," Beckley said. "You’re aware of it. But we have to do our legislation. And I am very much looking forward to getting the bills worked on. The likelihood that I get COVID is way higher than the likelihood that I’m gonna get shot and killed. I mean, let’s be realistic.”

Romero and Turner are some of the few Democrats who plan to attend a swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday. Other House representatives, including Beckley and Ramos, have said they will not attend because of concerns about extremists and COVID-19.

Got a tip? Email Hady Mawajdeh at hady@KERA.org. You can follow Hady on Twitter @hadysauce.

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