A trans rights activist was tackled and arrested by state police on Tuesday after Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) ordered the removal of trans rights protestors from the state house gallery as they chanted against a bill banning gender-affirming care.
Spectrum News reporter Charlotte Scott posted a video of the confrontation between police and Texas Freedom Network organizing director Adri Pérez. The footage shows police approaching Pérez from behind – though it is unclear why. Pérez puts their hands up and is then surrounded by several more officers, who tackle them to the ground. One of them sits on Pérez’s back and the other holds their ankles while a third handcuffs them.
The Texas Tribune reports that Pérez is being charged with misdemeanors for resisting arrest and disrupting a meeting. Jail records also show charges for a second-degree felony, but the reason is unknown.
The altercation took place after protestors began chanting and singing in the state house gallery in opposition to S.B. 14, a bill seeking to ban trans youth from receiving gender-affirming care. It would also require those already receiving care to detransition.
Another protestor, Sofia Sepulveda, was banned from the Texas Capitol for a year for violating a law prohibiting the attachment of banners to parts of the Texas Capitol building. Sepulveda had unfurled a massive banner from the second-floor rotunda that declared, “Let trans kids grow up,” which led to her forced removal from the building.
“I am a proud Texas resident, a Mexican-American, and a transgender woman, and I deserve to have my voice heard just like any other Texan invested in the policies shaping our lives,” said Sepulveda in a statement following the incident.
“I regularly exercise my rights to participate in statehouse rallies and activities, and I’m familiar with the rules and regulations. This is nothing more than an attempt to intimidate me and members of other marginalized communities from speaking our truth. I know I have done nothing wrong and I refuse to be silenced.”
Activists blasted Phelan for ordering the removal of the protestors from the state house gallery. Landon Richie, who works for the Transgender Education Network of Texas, called it authoritarian and “a real act of cowardice.”
“They don’t want to face accountability for their actions. They don’t want to face the people that this legislation is going to harm.”
“What happened today shows that we are a force to be reckoned with,” Equality Texas CEO Ricardo Martinez told the Tribune. “They can tear down our banners, they can push our bodies out of the gallery, they can be selective with the rules, but they cannot silence the millions of Texans who support their trans and LGB neighbors.”
Democrats weren’t sure what to make of Phelan’s decision.
“Guests have to abide by the House rules but it’s always better when people get to observe if they choose,” state Rep. Chris Turner (D) said. Turner also called Phelan’s decision “unusual.”
State Rep. Julie Johnson (D) criticized Phelan for ordering the removal of all the protestors rather than just the ones being disruptive.
“People have the right to come and observe the people’s business but that does not give them the right to disrupt the proceedings,” she said. “I can certainly understand why emotions are deep and strong. However, you can’t disrupt proceedings in the chamber.”
Phelan defended the move on Twitter, saying, “Rules matter in the TX House. Today’s outbursts in the gallery were a breach of decorum & continued after I warned that such behaviors would not be tolerated. There will always be differing perspectives, but in our chamber, we will debate those differences w/ respect.”
The vote on S.B. 14 was supposed to take place on Tuesday, but Democrats succeeded in delaying it due to a technicality. It will likely still take place this week.
All in for Equality, a coalition of LGBTQ+ rights organizations such as Equality Texas, Lambda Legal, and the Texas Freedom Network, released a statement condemning what transpired at the Capitol on Tuesday.
“We are deeply disturbed by and closely monitoring what has happened at the Texas Capitol. We witnessed violence and arrests today against Texans, many of whom are queer and transgender and who would be harmed directly by this bill.”
“Hundreds of people came to the Capitol to express their concerns about a bill that would ban life-saving health care for transgender youth. That bill was halted today based on a procedural point of order, but Texas lawmakers are still threatening to advance it.”
“We urge them to show compassion to transgender youth and will hold them to account to protect the freedoms of all Texans.”