Democratic Houston mayor Sylvester Turner announced during a virtual City Council meeting Wednesday that the Texas GOP would not be allowed to hold an in-person convention in Houston, but defended the George Floyd protests that took place in the city.
Turner said he instructed the publicly-owned Houston First Corporation, which operates the George R. Brown Convention Center, to cancel its contract with the Texas GOP, The Hill reported. The convention had been scheduled to take place July 16 and expected an audience of roughly 6,000 people.
“Simply, the public health concerns outweighed anything else,” the mayor said of his decision. Turner also stated that the Texas GOP would be allowed to host a virtual event, as the state’s Democratic Party decided to do. Houston has more than 26,000 active cases and 411 deaths, according to the Harris County public health department.
Republican Party of Texas Chairman James Dickey slammed the decision in a statement Wednesday, arguing that Turner was “seeking to deny a political Party’s critical electoral function that should be equally protected under the constitution.” Dickey added that the Texas GOP had already taken numerous steps to ensure the safety of the convention’s attendees.
The Texas GOP also accused the mayor of playing politics by cancelling the convention but allowing protests over the death of George Floyd to continue. Tens of thousands gathered in June with Floyd’s family, who are from Houston, to protest his death, the Houston Chronicle reported.
In response, Turner defended the George Floyd protests during Wednesday’s meeting, ABC 13 reported. “If you want to march outside, you can do that. That’s your First Amendment right. You don’t need a permit from me,” he said. (RELATED: George Floyd’s Texas Hometown Full Of Peaceful Demonstrations With Less Violence Than Other Cities)
It is one thing to be talking about an indoor convention where people are in close proximity with each other for a substantial amount of time rather than walking outside in a protest. When people are marching and protesting, no one is making lunch/dinner, cleaning up behind them.
— Sylvester Turner (@SylvesterTurner) July 8, 2020
The decision by a Democratic mayor to cancel the Texas GOP in-person state convention, which is one of the largest Republican gatherings in the country, is likely to set the stage for potential legal action, the New York Times reported.