[guest post by Dana]
It wasn’t just raucous protesters in the Texas House gallery making the news yesterday. After quelling the protesters, who chanted and blew whistles in disapproval of Senate Bill 4 (addressing sanctuary cities), which compels officials to enforce federal immigration laws and impose penalties on sanctuary cities, a scuffle unfolded on the floor.
Apparently, when Texas Republican Rep. Matt Rinaldi called ICE to report the protesters in the gallery wearing signs that claimed illegal status, and let Democrats on the floor know, it didn’t go over too well. Especially with Hispanic lawmakers:
Rinaldi and his Democratic colleagues traded accusations of death threats on the last day of the 85th Legislature’s regular session after he said he called federal immigration authorities on people in the gallery protesting the state’s new “sanctuary cities” law. Rinaldi said state Rep. Poncho Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass, “threatened my life on the House floor,” in a statement Monday. Nevárez said Rinaldi was lying, and state Rep. Justin Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, said Rinaldi had threatened to “put a bullet in one of my colleagues’ heads.”
The normally ceremonial last day of the legislative session briefly descended into chaos on Monday, as proceedings in the House were disrupted by large protests and at least one Republican lawmaker called immigration authorities on the protesters.
State Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, said he called U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement while hundreds of people dressed in red T-shirts unfurled banners and chanted in opposition to the state’s new sanctuary cities law. His action enraged Hispanic legislators nearby, leading to a tussle in which each side accused the other of threats and violence.
Rinaldi published a statement on Facebook yesterday, defending himself, and explaining the alleged threat of gun violence:
Today, Representative Poncho Nevarez threatened my life on the House floor after I called ICE on several illegal immigrants who held signs in the gallery which said “I am illegal and here to stay.” Several Democrats encouraged the protestors to disobey law enforcement. When I told the Democrats I called ICE, Representative Ramon Romero physically assaulted me, and other Democrats were held back by colleagues. During that time Poncho told me that he would “get me on the way to my car.” He later approached me and reiterated that “I had to leave at some point, and he would get me.” I made it clear that if he attempted to, in his words, “get me,” I would shoot him in self defense. I am currently under DPS protection. Several of my colleagues heard the threats made and witnessed Ramon assaulting me.
Romero’s account* of the event was posted on his Facebook page. He made it very personal:
The true intentions of SB4 came to light today on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives. Matt Rinaldi looked into a House gallery full of Americans exercising their first amendment rights against SB4 — Americans of all ages and all ethnicities — and he only saw “illegals.”
As Reps. Cesar Blanco, Phil Cortez, and myself celebrated the enthusiasm for civic engagement being shown, Rep. Rinaldi felt the need to break up our appreciation by telling us he had called ICE to deport the protestors in the gallery. Our reactions were honest. Our reactions were of disgust. His use of profanity to emphasize his point that all he saw was a bunch of “illegals” that deserve to be deported had the intention of anger.
Let me be clear, this was a personal attack on me as a son of Mexican immigrants. I voiced my feelings, as did Reps. Blanco and Cortez, and Rep. Rinaldi replied by saying the people in the gallery did not love this country. Members of his own party came to pull him away, making his accusation of being assaulted completely baseless. Countless members witnessed “the scuffle,” and they will all tell you no assault occurred.
He’s a liar and hateful man. Got no use for him. God bless him.
The same Nevarez, however, admitted today that he had in fact laid hands on the Republican:
“I did shove him around a little bit, I pushed him, because he needed to get out of there,” Nevarez said.
“I got in his face and I put my hands on the guy,” he also said. “In another exchange, I said, ‘we need to take this outside because it shouldn’t get resolved here in front of all these people.’”
Nevarez justified his actions thusly:
“He’s a racist. He’s a bad person,” Nevarez asserted. “We’re not going to allow people like that to get away with saying comments like that because they think nothing’s gonna happen to ’em.”
(Video of Nevarez’s statement at the link.) Seriously??
As of today, there has not been a report of any charges filed in the matter.
[Oh, FFS! I guess assault is now considered okay, if it’s your side that felt provoked. Like, Oh, we didn’t have a choice, we had to shove, hit, grab by the neck, whatever. WE HAD NO CHOICE! Whether it’s an annoying reporter provoking a politician, or a politician provoking a colleagues on the other side of the aisle, it’s unacceptable to react in this manner. Can we just dispense with making excuses for any of them: Gianforte’s assault on Ben Jacobs was simply how Montanans settle things. Nevarez shoving Rinaldi is just how Texans (or Hispanic males) settle things. We should be irate as hell that our elected officials in the seats of power believe the rules don’t apply to them, and condeming their noxious weasel-like rationalizations. As if those should smooth over very bad decision making. No one looks noble, just pathetic. And for Godsake, let’s stop assessing whether the story fits our particular point of political view before condemning it. That sort of thinking only widens the Left/Right chasm, and further exacerbates an already contentious situation. Somebody must be the grown up. Yet, amusingly, here I am condemning the laying on of hands by anyone without a personal invitation, and CNN is correcting me: What happened on the Texas House floor yesterday was simply “democracy in action”. Got it.]
Here is a video of yesterday’s “democracy in action”:
Here are photos of Rinaldi and Nevarez and Romero to help identify them in the video:
*In the Dallas Morning News, there is an interesting op-ed about the scuffle and the politics involved. Writer Mark Davis observes:
Rinaldi says Rep. Ramon Romero of Fort Worth “physically assaulted” him, which Romero denies, admitting only to “honest” reactions filled with “disgust.” He is entitled to describe his own feelings however he wishes.
But in his own post, he is not permitted to falsely characterize the views of others. His claim that Rinaldi took in the spectacle of chaos in the gallery and “saw only illegals” is part of the campaign of lies so often deployed against conservatives amid policy differences on immigration.
Seeking to concoct a personal affront, Romero called this “a personal attack on me as a son of Mexican immigrants.” It was, of course, nothing of the kind. Rinaldi’s focus, which is the same as mine and the same as President Donald Trump’s, is on immigrants who are breaking our laws.
But since admitting to siding with lawbreakers can be a tricky pursuit, the familiar liberal attack is to demonize opponents with the baseless suggestion that they are motivated by racism. This shameful charge is leveled on TV news segments, in slanderous op-eds, and in various legislative chambers.
A mightily offended chorus of Hispanic lawmakers gathered quickly to publicly malign Rinaldi’s well-earned good name. Their hate speech toward him is the product of one thing: he dares to fight for strong immigration laws.
(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)