In a memo this week, the Dallas Police Department said it was prepared for Election Day unrest. But, Gov. Greg Abbott might know something the department doesn’t because the Texas National Guard announced Monday that he asked them to deploy 1,000 troops across five cities, including Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Austin and Houston.
The San Antonio Express-News broke the story Monday. The cities could see the troops as early as this weekend, according to the newspaper.
Police and city officials said they don’t see the need for the National Guard at this time.
The Observer reached out to Abbott’s office, which sent a link to a statement Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, adjutant general of Texas, made on Twitter. The Guard sent the same statement in response to the Observer’s inquiry.
Norris tweeted: “The Texas National Guard continues to support [the Department of Public Safety] guarding historical landmarks such as the Alamo and the State Capitol. To be clear, there has been no request nor plan to provide any type of support at any polling location in Texas.”
Norris told Express-News that he had been asked to draft plans in case of trouble in Texas cities on Election Day.
The Texas National Guard was one of the agencies that assisted DPD in its controversial response to the George Floyd protests this summer, but the troops coming to Dallas seemed like news to the police department.
In an email to the Observer, Dallas police Sgt. Warren Mitchell said: “The Dallas Police Department is working in partnership with our local, state and federal agencies as we prepare for the upcoming election. There is currently no actionable intelligence that requires the assistance of the Texas National Guard. Therefore, there has been no request for their presence at this time.”
Tristan Hallman, Mayor Eric Johnson’s spokesperson, said the mayor was not aware of any plans to send the Guard to Dallas.
County Judge Clay Jenkins also told The Dallas Morning News that he had not been contacted by Abbott about the deployment. “We’re going to proceed as normal and declare a winner when all the votes are counted, and it’s really as simple as that,” he told the DMN. “We have no indication and no intelligence that this will be anything but a peaceful election.”
Some have suggested this is a move by Republican Abbott to suppress the vote as many speculate that Texas could turn blue this election.
Joanna Cattanach, a Democrat running for the Texas House in District 108, said that through weeks of early voting, no incidents that would require the Texas National Guard have taken place. “Governor Abbott’s decision to call up the National Guard is nothing more than a last-ditch effort at further voter suppression and evidence of a bully looking for a fight where none exists,” she said.
Brandon J. Vance, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and a veteran, said Abbott's decision is alarming. Stonewall Democrats of Dallas is an organization dedicated to politically representing the LGBTQ community in Dallas and Texas.
"While I understand the need to preserve peace and tranquility, the fear and concern that is now spreading at this news are troubling," Vance said. "Should the troops need to act, my most fervent prayer is that they remember their oath to protect and defend the Constitution, and that illegal and immoral orders can be disregarded."
Eric Cedillo, a clinical professor of law at Southern Methodist University, said that given the timing, he doesn’t think the governor is trying to suppress the vote.
“Most Democrats vote early,” Cedillo said. “It’s Republicans that vote on Election Day. So, that doesn’t make sense from that perspective.”
Instead, Cedillo believes Abbott likely received information from FBI field offices about public safety issues stemming from right wing extremist groups on Election Day.
Whether intentional or not, Cedillo said President Donald Trump’s remarks about the Proud Boys, telling them to “stand down and stand by" during the first debate against former Vice President Joe Biden, may have elicited a response that Texas is now trying to prepare for.
Cedillo is also a board member for March to the Polls, the founder of the Latino Voter Empowerment Coalition, and sits on the Citizens Elections Advisory Committee.
Texas Guard spokesperson Brandon Jones told the Express-News that the troops were being activated for “postelection support” of local law enforcement to deter any civil disturbances. San Antonio government officials told the publication that they had not been consulted on the decision to deploy the Guard and did not see the need.
Jones also told Express-News their deployment could be broadened to include polling locations but insisted that this had not been asked of them yet.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.