Tensions flared at the Texas state capitol today with law enforcement officers being called in to deal with members of a White Lives Matter group and their opponents who quickly formed to protest their presence. The day ultimately ended with eight arrests, as well as police equipping full riot control gear to respond to acts of violence and various other public disturbances.
Witnesses say appriximately 20 White Lives Matter protesters gathered at the capitol around noon to protest state laws regarding racially motivated crimes that they believe fall in favor of minorities. A sign which read “Equal justice under law” was held by one of the protesters. He dressed fully in black with what appeared to be a Kalashnikov assault rifle draped over his shoulder. The protesters were met with 300-400 outraged individuals labeled "counter protesters" by a Texas Department of Public Safety officer, who yelled reportedly met fire with fire. Comments such as “Nazi scum” as well as other insults were hurled across the lines of angered political activists. Riot police were soon summoned, with about 60 state law enforcement officers on the scene and a state Department of Public Safety helicopter monitoring activity from above.
Many believe the incident at the Capitol was yet another conflict sparked by division, much of which centers around race-related issues, which has recently become a more prominent issue across the U.S. since the presidential election nearly two weeks ago. By the end of the day a small number of White Lives Matter political protesters were surrounded by hundreds of counter protesters outside of the Capitol, where state officials proceeded with eight arrests, two of which occurred on Capitol grounds. The charges being filed today are mainly misdemeanor, but include offences such as assault, interference with public duty, disorderly conduct and evading arrest.
The counter protesters were organized, in part by, by Smash Fascism Austin. The Smash Fascism group used their Facebook group to spread their message, claiming that supporters needed to “turn out in overwhelming numbers, drown out their message of hate, and show them the people of Austin will not stand for fascists organizing on our streets.” Both sides had an adequate but nonconstructive environment to make a change to their state's laws. The most prevailing note for the day is the amount of publicity brought to the issue throughout the state of Texas, as well as the rest of the nation.