Legal expert calls on district attorney to act after trans activists disrupt Texas House proceedings

(The Center Square) – Some are calling for criminal charges a day after a group of trans activists disrupted Texas House proceedings in Austin, resulting in Texas Department of Public Safety…

(The Center Square) – Some are calling for criminal charges a day after a group of trans activists disrupted Texas House proceedings in Austin, resulting in Texas Department of Public Safety troopers clearing visitors from the House gallery over concerns for citizens’ safety.

The protests erupted Tuesday over a bill that would ban gender modification procedures for minors.

SB 14 had already passed the Senate and was being heard in the House. Both SB 14 and it’s companion bill, HB 1686, filed by Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress, had already received hours of testimony and debate.

Hundreds of people came to the capitol expressing their support for the bill and sat quietly in the upper gallery of the House chamber. After hours of waiting in the chamber, the bill was brought to the floor and proceedings were disrupted. Eyewitnesses described their experience to The Center Square.

Michelle Evans, legislative director for Texans for Vaccine Choice, who was in the House upper gallery, said, “After being in the gallery for more than six hours, SB14 was finally laid out. Almost immediately, chanting started throughout the gallery and two known trans activists on either side of our group joined in on the disruption. Banners were then unfurled and the Speaker called for the gallery to be cleared, not just the protestors, but everyone,” she told The Center Square.

She posted a video on Twitter depicting the incident.

Many others posted videos of activists being arrested by Texas DPS troopers after the gallery erupted with “protestors chanting ‘trans rights are human rights’ as Texas DPS attempts to clear them out, one protester gets physical with an officer as they are ushering people out,” the Texan reported.

“I was walking with several elderly women who were frightened to be thrust into a group of activists just outside the gallery who had already been aggressive and lewd throughout the day. They pleaded with DPS to guarantee their safety. One activist had to be restrained by DPS in the gallery and one exposed himself,” Evans told The Center Square.

Once they left the gallery, “one activist assaulted me and tried to take my phone as I was filming” the commotion, she said. “Others accosted us and shouted us down. After creating a safety issue, DPS then cleared the third floor entirely,” she said.

Once they all arrived in the Capitol rotunda, Evans and others linked arms and formed a prayer circle. “Within seconds, activists broke through and began pushing, one slapped a DPS trooper,” she said. “They overwhelmed us, screaming and ranting. One DPS trooper told me he would not be able to keep me safe if I remained in the rotunda. Next thing I knew, dozens of activists were removed from the Capitol through the south exit.”

Members of the advocacy group Citizens Defending Freedom, who traveled from five Texas counties, were also in attendance. One of them, Marcia Watson, executive director of the group’s Williamson County chapter, joined over 200 Texans wearing #SaveTexasKids red shirts in support of the bill, she said.

“Many supporters of this bill came from all over the state and drove many hours to support it,” she told The Center Square. “Why we all had to be removed from the gallery because of a few bad actors is unprecedented in my lifetime. I’ve been to the House gallery supporting bills for years and have never once been asked to leave due to outbursts by a few trans insurrectionists.”

Jill Glover, Chair of the Republican Party of Texas Legislative Priorities Committee, told The Center Square that the majority of people there were supporters of the bill. “Because so many supporters were there,” she said, “we helped prevent an even worse disruption because there were less seats to fill.”

In response, Citizens Defending Freedom’s Deputy General Counsel and Texas Director of Legal Operations, Jonathan Hullihan, is raising legal concerns and calling on the Travis County District Attorney to act.

He told The Center Square, “Protecting children from life altering and often irreversible elective surgery is an issue the majority of Americans support. Unfortunately, as we saw yesterday in the Texas Capitol, activists will go to any length to undermine and intimidate parents and lawmakers that seek to establish protections against gender mutilation.”

He said he was “very pleased to see the brave men and women of law enforcement reestablish law and order and deescalate the situation with professionalism and quick action” but is also imploring Travis County District Attorney José Garza to act. He’s asking Garza “to identify, charge, and hold those accountable” whose actions went “beyond protected speech” and violated Texas laws.

“Under both Texas Penal Code Sections 38.13 and 42.05, such conduct is a crime,” he said. “District Attorney Garza has the ability to set an example for law and order and dissuade this type of behavior in the future, and my hope is he does just that with swift accountability.”

Due to unrelated reasons and a procedural issue, the bill was sent back to the House Committee on Public Health. It was voted out of committee again and its chair, Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, said the “House will have SB14 on the floor later this week.”