Jun 2, 2020
Gov. Greg Abbott Texas Press Conference Transcript June 2 on George Floyd Protests
Governor Greg Abbott of Texas held a press conference on June 2 in Dallas. Abbott talked about statewide protests over George Floyd’s death. Read his full news briefing speech here.
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Governor Greg Abbott: (00:03)
Do we have everyone?
Governor Greg Abbott: (00:10)
Well, thank you all for gathering with us here today. I want to start out by thanking mayors. Do we have everyone? There we go. We are thanking Mayors Eric Johnson of Dallas and Betsy Price from Fort Worth. Thank you for the profound leadership that you provide to your communities. Also, want to thank Police Chief Reneé Hall as well as Police Chief Ed Kraus who joined with us here today. And very importantly, I want to thank all of the men and women who serve in their departments, making sure their communities remain safe and peaceful. Also, with us today is General Tracy Norris, the general in charge of the Texas National Guard, and Colonel Steve McCraw, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety. We have with us, Erin Nealy Cox, the United States attorney for the Northern District of Texas.
Governor Greg Abbott: (01:13)
Let’s be clear. What happened to George Floyd is a horrific act of police brutality. This should never have happened. We must ensure that it never happens here in Texas. I join the millions of Americans who seek swift justice in this case. George Floyd’s death has touched every corner of our country. People are rightfully angry, but the beautiful thing about America is that every person has the right to make their voices heard, to protest against this injustice. However, violence and vandalism is never the answer. They have no place in Dallas, Fort Worth or anywhere in the state of Texas. Ironically, those acts of violence and vandalism, they are overshadowing the death of George Floyd rather than shining a light on the injustice that occurred. They drown out the voices of those who are seeking to protest peacefully. In response, Texas is working with local law enforcement to maintain order and to uphold public safety so that peaceful protesters can make their voices heard.
Governor Greg Abbott: (02:57)
To that end, it is essential that we end the violence, the vandalism and the looting that we’ve seen over the past few days during the course of these protests. That is why we have deployed more than 1,000 Department of Public Safety officers as well as hundreds of Texas National Guard just to the Dallas-Fort Worth region alone. More are being deployed across the entire state of Texas. We are also working with our partners and the US Attorney’s Office as well as the FBI to quell any uprisings of violence that may occur. Now, some of the violence that we’re seeing is not being done by people who reside in Dallas or even in Texas. Instead, the violence is coming into Texas from across state lines, is committed by criminals who are hijacking peaceful protest in order to plunder, in order to loot. That is why we are also working with all four United States attorneys in Texas to ensure that these criminals are going to be subject to federal prosecution.
Governor Greg Abbott: (04:20)
Our immediate task at hand is to ensure that we restore calm in our communities, but restoring calm in our communities does not end our task. Our work will not end until justice, fairness and equality become a reality in every part of our great state. Texas is up to this task. Texas is recognized as a national leader in criminal justice reform. Texas passed the Timothy Cole Act, the Sandra Bland Act and the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act. I signed a law that places body cameras on law enforcement uniforms to make a record of all police encounters. I signed into law the Timothy Cole Exoneration Review Commission, the Innocence Project, which is known across the United States, perhaps across the entire world. They labeled Texas the gold standard in innocence reform. Texas has exonerated more individuals than any other state since 1989. We are up to the task of doing both correcting injustices and restoring safety in our communities.
Governor Greg Abbott: (05:53)
What I have seen as governor is that Texans can overcome any challenge. We can put an end to the violence that is gripping our cities. We can remedy the injustices that have played African American and other minority communities in Texas. We will seize this moment to bridge the divides that exist in our state so that we can and we will keep Texas the greatest state in the United States of America. This time, I will pass it to Mayor Eric Johnson.
Mayor Eric Johnson: (06:40)
Thank you, Governor Abbott. I want to say that, first of all, I appreciate your words and your support. I also want to thank Mayor Price and her team for joining us here today. I want to echo the governor’s statement about George Floyd. What happened in Minneapolis was brutal, inexcusable and tragic. Mr. Floyd’s death reopened a painful wound that runs deep in our city, our state and our country. It’s a wound, however, that will not heal on its own. The city of Dallas has and must continue to address our challenges head on. As you all know, I love this city. I grew up right here in West Dallas, in Oak Cliff, and it’s the only city that I’ve ever called or ever wanted to call home. I’m proud to be a Dallasite, a Texan and an American. I’m honored to serve as the mayor of my hometown. No one goes into public service because they believe everything is perfect and every problem-
Eric Johnson: (08:02)
… Everything is perfect and every problem has already been solved. I grew up surrounded by inequities in historically underserved communities in this city. While those of us up here haven’t always agreed on every issue, we all dedicated ourselves to public service because we want to improve the lives of our neighbors in our community. And our community right now is expressing legitimate concerns, fears, and complaints about a history of systemic issues in this country. We should hear them. We should talk to them and we should respect them and their rights to express themselves. It’s up to us, the public officials up here, and all of us who are watching and listening to heed these calls for justice. On Friday, we will have a special called meeting of the Dallas City Council to discuss the events of the past week and to talk about what this city can do better.
Eric Johnson: (09:23)
In the meantime, I want to reiterate that we will not tolerate those who want to come into our city and exploit these peaceful protests to cause mischief for its own sake or for their own personal gain. 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. 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. This isn’t their home. These are outsiders who came into our city to cause trouble knowing that they don’t have to live with any of the consequences. I am very grateful to Governor Abbott for the additional resources he’s provided to help maintain order and to allow for peaceful protest to go on without disruption. I’m also thankful for the people of the city of Dallas who have been overwhelmingly supportive and have heeded our calls for peace.
Eric Johnson: (10:44)
Our people have been through extraordinarily difficult times in the past few months. The ongoing pandemic, the economic turmoil, and the unrest of the past few days have been heartbreaking to watch unfold in our great city. We’re doing all that we can to help our residents get through these difficult times. As usual, our people are responding with dignity and with grace. They’re helping each other out. That’s how we’re going to get through this together. Thank you, Governor and may God bless the city of Dallas, the state of Texas and the United States of America. Now I’m going to turn it over to my good friend, the mayor of Fort Worth, Betsy Price.
Betsy Price: (11:37)
Thank you, Eric or Mayor Johnson. It’s hard sometimes not to call your good friends by their first name, but we appreciate you hosting us today. Governor Abbott, thank you for joining us here in Fort Worth-Dallas region today. As we all deal with really difficult issues, I want to thank Mayor Johnson and Chief Hall for their support in this. We live in a very regional area. People go back and forth so we are heavily dependent on each other and our citizens are often Eric’s citizens during the day and vice versa for all of us. It really is intertwined. Our own chief, Ed Kraus, is with us today. The protest continued last night in Fort Worth despite the fact that we had the curfew, by and large peaceful, and our chief and our officers joined with our protestors in compassion, love, and some sharing of friendship. It was incredibly moving last night to watch the images of our chief kneeling and praying alongside the protestors, of him moving the SWAT team back on the promise that they would leave. Oftentimes, it’s that little bit of communication that helps unwind this. Texans are lawful citizens, and they want to protest and express their outrage over the horrific killing of George Floyd. Most of them are very, very peaceful. Our chief has always led with a servant’s heart and a warrior’s heart when it’s the proper place. I want to echo the governor’s comments on the George Floyd killing. It is horrific. The national outcry and what we’re seeing echoed here in Texas is an injustice that our communities, as Eric said, are feeling deeply, as are all of us as leaders. All of this region has had tragic instances.
Betsy Price: (13:31)
Fort Worth had our own killing of Atatiana Jefferson just seven months ago. That was tragic. Our community is still hurting, still reeling. Much hard work has gone into that, but nothing more than listening and compassion where Texans can hear us and know that someone cares. I think that helps get the healing further along than nearly anything. The protest and the demonstrations that we’ve seen in Fort Worth are about people exercising their first amendment rights. I applaud the young men and women who have courageously and respectfully been involved in those protests.
Betsy Price: (14:12)
It’s not just Fort Worth residents, as you said, Eric. Many of them are outside of our region who are here. Our DPS resources, National Guard that you’ve made available, while we haven’t called them in, they’ve stood ready and we know exactly where they are if we do have to. But they’re there to help resist that people who want to incite violence. Our communities of color deserve to be heard and their message deserves to resonate with all of us. A collective compassion. I look forward to continuing this hard work with you, Governor Abbott and with you Mayor Johnson, along with all our communities. I know that as an end result, peaceful demonstrations, the right to express your first amendment, we all come together, listen and care. Fort Worth-Dallas region and indeed the entire state of Texas will be stronger for it. Thank you.
Greg Abbott: (15:11)
Thank you, Mayor and thank you, Mayor. We will be happy to take some questions. I want you to know that as you ask questions, you’re free to also ask questions of those who did not speak right now. One reason why these folks are here with us is because they bring their own unique information base that they can share information with you so feel free to ask questions of them also.
Speaker 2: (15:36)
Governor, you said-
Speaker 3: (15:36)
Greg Abbott: (15:46)
We will not be asking the United States military to come into the state of Texas because we know that Texans can take care of Texans. We have tremendous police forces in Dallas, in Fort Worth, in the surrounding suburbs, across the entire state. We have an abundance of resources that are being …
Governor Greg Abbott: (16:03)
… the entire stake. We have an abundance of resources that are being provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety. They have deployed something around close to 3000 people across the entire state of Texas already. We have the National Guard, there’s adding people by the day to make sure that we are going to be capable of making sure Texans will be able to take care of Texans.
Speaker 4: (16:23)
[crosstalk 00:16:23] conversation with the president?
Governor Greg Abbott: (16:24)
Say again now?
Speaker 4: (16:27)
Do you mind just explaining about the conversation with the president yesterday?
Governor Greg Abbott: (16:31)
Sure, what happens actually on a weekly basis, sometimes twice a week, is the governors across the United States have a telephone conference with the president. Typically, it has been focusing on the Coronavirus. Yesterday, it focused on what was going on across the entire country in response to what happened with regard to George Floyd. Appropriately, we all talked about the horrific killing of George Floyd, and the necessity to respond to the tragedy of George Floyd in a positive way to make sure that we can provide some sense of justice, and not just for George Floyd, but for every community across the United States of America, but at the same time, we talked about the necessity of restoring calm, and order, and safety in our communities.
Speaker 5: (17:22)
[crosstalk 00:17:22] you said that justice, fairness, and equality required to move forward. Give us some examples. What are you prepared to do? What policy changes, legislative changes are you prepared to support to address the protesters concerns?
Governor Greg Abbott: (17:36)
During my remarks, I talked about several of the laws that Texas has passed, including during the time that I have been governor, but it’s just a sampling, not a complete listing of those laws. Before I came here today, I had the opportunity to visit with legislators, and I talked to them about the beginning of this process, and that is, I talked about the need for us to ensure the safety of our communities now, while we also ensure the ability of those to peacefully protest, but I also let them know that today is not going to be any type of end, for us as legislators, today is going to be the beginning of a [crosstalk 00:18:19] let me finish today is going to be the beginning of a dialogue that we have among the members, and the Texas capital to focus on issues like this, understanding that in order for us to get information that is needed to start crafting legislation begins not in January when we meet procession, but begins now as we start that process.
Speaker 5: (18:42)
Is there an idea you like from any legislators so far? I’ve seen a lot of different ideas out there.
Governor Greg Abbott: (18:47)
We’re open to putting everything on the table, and working toward positive solutions that will improve Texas.
Speaker 6: (18:53)
[crosstalk 00:18:53] [ inaudible 00:18:56]?
Governor Greg Abbott: (19:25)
First, with regard to the panels, you’re probably referring to panels that we had in the aftermath of shootings, whether it be at Santa Fe, or in El Paso, and things like that, and we were able to have those at a time when we didn’t have COVID-19, and so, because of COVID-19, we have to be cautious about the way that any type of panel would be handled. However, as I laid out this morning, as I spoke with legislators, the time to start working collaboratively together begins now. With regard to your other question about, I forget exactly how you worded it, about what?
Speaker 6: (20:02)
[inaudible 00:20:02] investigations [inaudible 00:04:07]?
Governor Greg Abbott: (20:08)
Sure. Those are ongoing. I would like to have Director McCraw answer that question as he is the one with the most information about it. You see if that works?
Director McCraw: (20:37)
[inaudible 00:20:27]. Absolutely. Okay. Texas Rangers, special agents with DPS are working with their counterparts, special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The construct, and the sort of the U.S. attorney was well aware of the joint [inaudible 00:20:51] and task force to pursue all agitators and individuals that have been involved in the [inaudible 00:20:56] riots or looting in the state of Texas. I can tell you, and it’s already been said, and governor said it, the majority of people that are protesting are doing it because they’re sickened by the murder of George Floyd period. Absolutely, and they’ve got a right constitutional right to protest, and do it peacefully.
Director McCraw: (21:16)
And, we have an obligation as law enforcement officers to protect their right to protest, and allow that to occur. However, those that are engaged in crime, and we’re talking about, there’s violent extremists, there’s anarchists, there’s Antifa, but there’s also criminals, using this as an opportunity to exploit, to loot and hurt others, that’s happening, and we’ve got a long memory, and we’ve recorded evidence, and we’ll continue to investigate each, and every event to identify those individuals who were involved in criminal conduct, and make the appropriate arrest based on probable cause, and getting prosecution either the district attorneys or from the U.S Attorney’s office.
Speaker 7: (21:57)
Director McCraw: (21:59)
Well, everyone that’s been identified thus far, yes, there’s a list.
Speaker 7: (22:01)
Director McCraw: (22:05)
No, no. We’ll go through the normal process, and due process in terms of developing reasonable [inaudible 00:22:10] probable cause, and I can tell, I don’t mind advertising this. We do have special agents embedded trying to identify criminals that are leveraging these, or are using this as an opportunity exploiting these demonstrations, and identify them, and we’ve already identified some of them, and we will be arresting them, but not at this particular moment.
Speaker 7: (22:31)
[crosstalk 00:22:31] sort of [inaudible 00:22:31].
Director McCraw: (22:35)
They’re all over the place. I can tell you the majority are going to be statewide, but there are individuals that have been indicated that came from out of state into, and we’re even aware of in terms of May 31st, the protest, and looting of Target in Austin. That was done and organized by an Antifa webpage, and of course, the surveillance that was provided over the internet identifying where law enforcement resources were staged was done over Antifa accounts. There’s no question that there is involvement of these violent extremists that are trying to exploit these things, but the majority of people that are protesting are doing it for the lawful reasons period, they’re doing it.
Speaker 8: (23:15)
[crosstalk 00:23:15] Antifa [inaudible 00:23:17].
Director McCraw: (23:21)
There’s evidence of Antifa, yes, and keep in mind, Antifa is a loosely knit group. There’s not a hierarchal infrastructure, and so they self identify, and so, it’s the same people that you’ve seen before in some of these protests, and they’re more often involved in these counter protests, or the same individuals that are involved right now using this as an opportunity. They just can’t help themselves. They’re going to exploit this as much as they can.
Speaker 9: (23:44)
Governor [inaudible 00:23:44] you agreed to [inaudible 00:23:48]?
Governor Greg Abbott: (23:54)
Well, again, that would be a question best answered by police officers, and I will allow a Director McCraw to answer first and then…
Governor Greg Abbott: (24:03)
[inaudible 00:24:00] and I will allow Director McCraw to answer first. And then if they want to, the police chiefs can also answer.
Director McCraw: (24:08)
Make no mistake about it, there’s not a police officer in Texas that is not sickened by the murder of George Floyd. I guarantee you that. I said, “What we get paid, you can trust us.” The public can trust but so much power from police. The power to detain and unfortunately to use force at times. And with that trust is where we use it for one reason, and that’s to protect people, not to harm people. And that’s exactly what they did, he was harmed. Okay? He was murdered. That’s unacceptable.
Director McCraw: (24:37)
And every officer is accountable for their actions. And as the Governor pointed out, video cameras on every one of our troopers and police officers are wearing those around because that’s evidence, to ensure that there is evidence that captures what they’re doing in their interactions with public. Because we’ve got a responsibility and a right, an obligation to treat everyone with dignity and respect.
Director McCraw: (25:01)
[inaudible 00:25:01] What are you talking about? Deadly violence or deadly force?
Director McCraw: (25:16)
Well, quite frankly, that is run by… There’s a lot of that is case law, by the Supreme Court, we’ve got an obligation to ensure that we’re in complete compliance within the strict compliance, but the bottom line is there’s not a police officer… The use of force should be the last resort. Okay? Everything you try to do to get around the force continuum is to try to deescalate it from the beginning, and you don’t want to get to that last part, but there are times, and only times when you’re in imminent fear of your safety or the safety of others, are you allowed to use deadly force and it has to be reasonable in the way you use deadly force.
Director McCraw: (25:59)
[inaudible 00:25:59] I’ll let legislators and policy makers make that decision. Bottom line is that we should never use force unless we absolutely have to, to save lives.
Speaker 10: (26:12)
McCraw, let me ask you about… You mentioned Antifa, can you tell us are white supremacist groups operating in Texas to your knowledge?
Director McCraw: (26:17)
Yeah, they are always operating and they certainly would leverage the advantage of it. And we’ve had reports that they are, we haven’t seen that yet. I have yet to actually seen reports of a Boogaloo and other groups that sometimes have a Nazi affiliation, but Hey, they’re thugs. Okay? They’re criminals. They’re racists, they’re bigots, they’ll be involved in some way, shape or form with some criminal activity, trying to exploit this, if nothing else, counter protesting, or pitting someone against another.
Governor Greg Abbott: (27:13)
Well, so they’re going to be ideas like that come forward. And I think it’s important that we have the opportunity to be able to have dialogue with all legislators and round out the completeness of all these issues, consider the pros and cons and modifications to any of these issues. And so one off answers are incomplete, we need to have the complete dialogue of everybody in the House and Senate
Speaker 10: (27:36)
Last question. [inaudible 00:27:41].
Governor Greg Abbott: (27:45)
Would you restate your question please?
Governor Greg Abbott: (27:55)
There has been no request for Texas to send National Guard troops to Washington DC. I do not expect that request. Texas National Guard are here for Texans, and that’s exactly what they will be used for.
Speaker 10: (28:07)
Governor Greg Abbott: (28:14)
Speaker 11: (28:32)
I don’t want to concentrate on actions that I took the action or the discussion needs to remain on the murder of George Floyd and the understandable outrage of the community and the peaceful protest that we are supporting. As the governor said, and the mayor said, we can’t have that anarchist vandalism and looting, and certainly not assaultive behavior, but we’re here to support the peaceful protest as much as we can. And that’s the concentration of what we’re doing and that’s, I think where the conversation needs to be. I do think, and I’ve seen other police in other communities kneeling and marching in solidarity, and having these tough conversations with members of the protest. And I think that’s definitely a step in the right direction. I’ve said it before that we have to come together with our communities and the first step it’s incumbent on us, the police to take it. We cannot expect the community to come to us if we’re not willing to go to them first.
Speaker 11: (29:39)
So I’ve been in contact with our divisional representative of the Texas DPS, who has offered all the resources that we could need. My goal is to handle this with Fort Worth police officers, officers who are embedded in the community, familiar with the community, and that I am confident will deal the community in a very good way.
Speaker 10: (30:03)
Chief Hall is answering next.
Chief Hall: (30:05)
Speaker 10: (30:06)
Chief Hall: (30:07)
What was the question? You said, are we expected to honor? Yes, absolutely. We are putting these curfews in place to keep the peaceful protestors, as well as our community, our businesses keep everyone safe. And we’re just asking that they would abide by those curfews.
Speaker 10: (30:29)
Chief Hall, we saw the bridge last night. Should the curfew area be extended?
Speaker 12: (30:34)
If we have official questions for the police officers, we’ll stick around, but the governor is on a schedule, the mayors are on a schedule, so we have got to go. If you guys want to field additional questions, [inaudible 00:30:41] more than happy to stick around for additional questions.
Speaker 10: (30:49)