Texas elected leaders condemn the death of George Floyd as “horrific,” “senseless”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with quotes throughout.

The death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed Monday in Minneapolis police custody, was “horrific,” Gov. Greg Abbott said Friday.

Abbott, speaking during an interview with KPRC-TV, didn’t comment on the protests that have rocked Minneapolis since Floyd’s death. Over the last several days, protesters have expressed outrage after Floyd was filmed crying out for help as a white police officer pinned him to the ground with a knee to his neck.

“It should not have happened,” Abbott said of Floyd’s death. “Obviously, from everything I have seen, this is a consequence of poor police work.”

The governor also said he hopes people understand “that poor police work done by one individual — it may be the entire team — should not be reflective of the professionalism that so many of our law enforcement officers across the state and across America try to use every single day.”

Abbott is not the only Texan to condemn Floyd’s death Friday. In a tweet thread, outgoing U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, the only black Republican in the U.S. House, wrote, “The video evidence in George Floyd’s case should be enough for the Hennepin County Attorney to make arrests TODAY, so this police officer can be prosecuted for murder.”

Most Texas Republicans in Congress who responded to The Texas Tribune’s questions about President Donald Trump’s Thursday night tweets implying that looting demonstrators in Minneapolis could be shot avoided responding to that directly. The president’s tweet resulted in the social media company adding a warning label to a tweet.

“I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City,” the president wrote, adding that Mayor Jacob Frey, a Democrat, must “get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right.” Trump also called the Minneapolis protesters “thugs.”

Texas Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, addressed the president’s tweets with unmitigated fury.

“The president’s comments are vile, inappropriate and incite violence,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, a Fort Worth Democrat.

“His words have stoked xenophobia and hatred. From the shootings in El Paso to the events in Charlottesville, his words have emboldened racism and given way to an America, I do not recognize,” said U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen. “It’s time for change.”

Gonzalez added that “violence is never the answer.” U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, a Dallas Democrat, called the tweet “disturbing.”

“It is so outrageous, and so over the top, even for this president,” concurred U.S. Rep. Sylvia R. Garcia of Houston. “It totally is beneath the dignity of the office.”

“His repeated, vicious incitements to violence — here, in the words and spirit of brutal segregationists past — are more abhorrent than looting,” said U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin.

“Clearly, any President of the United States should have both the right and the obligation to call for a restoration of order,” said U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville. “That is what most Presidents would do. President Trump’s decision to suggest that the lawful approach to restoring order should come by ‘shooting’ is a clear reflection and reminder of the total incompetence which this country has endured for over three years.

“At this point the only response is a resounding defeat at the polls in the November election,” he said.

“No President, Democrat or Republican, should call for or glorify violence against fellow Americans,” said U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo. “In Congress, I join many of my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, in their censure of the President’s comments.”

U.S. Rep. Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, a Houston Democrat, noted Floyd’s Texas ties.

“Our community in Houston, where Mr. Floyd was raised, is mourning his death, as are Americans across the country,” she wrote. ​​​​​

And several Texas Democrats and at least one Republican lamented that Floyd’s death was rooted in racism.

“Senseless and brutal killings of all kinds rightfully provoke our strongest sense of sadness, injustice, and even outrage,” said U.S. Rep. Jodey Arrington, R-Lubbock. “I along with people from all across the country experienced those emotions over what happened to George Floyd. However, justice, not violence, is the right way to address this travesty.”

Allred noted his own experiences with racism.

“I’ve experienced prejudice and racism in my own life, and I understand the heartache that many are going through. We must meet this moment with peaceful reflection, justice, and real change,” he said.

The delegation’s lone medical doctor, Republican U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess of Lewisville, described the incident as “tragic and deeply disturbing,” and called for accountability in the police force.

“President Trump is correct that there is a distinction between a peaceful protest and violence that causes unrest,” he said of the president’s handling of the circumstances. “Innocent lives are put are risk and must be protected.”

U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, an Austin Republican, deferred comment about the president’s statement to the White House.

“What we now need is justice for Mr. Floyd and an immediate end to ongoing lawlessness,” Roy said in a statement.

U.S. Rep. John Carter, a Round Rock Republican and former judge, pulled from his judicial experience in addressing the issue.

“From my time on the bench as a judge, I know most police officers are dedicated public servants and work hard to keep our communities safe,” he said. “However, for those who fail to humanely and respectfully defend public safety, justice must be served.”

Like several other Texas Republicans, he said rioting was not a solution for those upset with the status quo.

“No one in America should play the role of judge, jury, and executioner — and, in absolutely no universe and nowhere, should someone fear for their life because of the color of their skin,” said U.S. Rep. Van Taylor, a Plano Republican. “Yet, tragically today, that is how many black Americans feel. As we mourn this tragedy, we must come together as a nation to advance equal justice and work to heal the wounds, both institutional and cultural, dividing our county.”

The Texas Legislative Black Caucus echoed a similar sentiment. “The police killing of Mr. George Floyd has to be the light which brings an end to the darkness of the atrocities committed by police officers against Black people. If not, separation may be the only remaining light for black people.”

The white officer, Derek Chauvin, seen in the now-viral video footage kneeling on Floyd’s neck, was taken into custody Friday afternoon and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa and Vice Chair Carla Brailey said in a statement that the party “stands with those pleading for accountability for the death of Mr. Floyd.”

They also said they would continue to work on a Democratic agenda “that directly addresses systemic inequality and combats discriminatory policies and practices.”

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee asked the Justice Department on Thursday to investigate Floyd’s death along with the recent killings of two other black people: Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old who was was shot by white residents in Georgia, and Breonna Taylor, an EMT shot eight times in March during a “no-knock” police raid of her apartment.

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