Politics

Houston Mayor Cancels Texas GOP In-Person Convention, Defends George Floyd Protests

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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.

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 19: Delegates from Texas hold signs that read "Don't mess with Texas" on the second day of the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

Delegates from Texas hold signs that read “Don’t mess with Texas” at the 2016 Republican National Convention (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

“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)

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.