Downtown Fort Worth was the scene of two tense confrontations between the Fort Worth police department and a coalition of protest groups that includes Enough Is Enough, Black Lives Matter, FW4GeorgeFloyd, and others last evening.
The protesters have kept West 7th corridor business owners on edge (and more than a few unsuspecting patrons distressed) over the past several days by flooding the bars and restaurants and chanting, “Whose streets? Our streets!” and “No justice, no peace!” to raise awareness of racial discrimination and inequality across the country.
Last evening, the group turned its efforts downtown. Protest organizers said they chose Texas de Brazil for its affluent clientele. While police have not intervened on West 7th, protest organizers used last night to see if police response would be different when the same tactics were employed in areas where mayor “Betsy Price eats,” protest leader Rod Smith said.
As protesters entered the main entrance on the east side of the building, more than a dozen police officers entered the south entrance, filling the main dining area alongside protesters. Around 20 minutes after protesters entered, a black woman ran out of the building appearing to be distressed. A white man had thrown water on the protester and called her a “nigger,” I was told. Verbal police statements that evening corroborated the incident.
Protesters left the building and began yelling at police, who blocked their reentrance.
“One of those people did not have control of themselves,” protest leader Lucid Shinobi told a police officer. “They are being racist, spitting on us and throwing water. It’s 2020. We see everything you do.”
Reactions to the Weekly’s Facebook livestream questioned the protesters’ motives.
“There is no such thing as hate speech,” one self-described Trump supporter said. “It is a made-up term by the leftists to censor any speech they do not like.”
I am glad that I don’t have kids to witness this public hysteria, another commenter wrote.
A white customer dining with his white wife said protesters called her a “white whore” and a “bitch.” The mostly Hispanic waitstaffers who had recently been rehired were noticeably unsettled, he added. The witness, who asked to not be named, said the incident has left him and his wife traumatized. Police attempts to deescalate the situation were met with cursing on the part of the protesters, he said. He provided video footage of protesters taunting him as he filmed the incidents. The witness drew a contrast between peaceful protesters associated with United My Justice and “activists” who he said used bullying tactics that evening.
The police officers then filed inside the restaurant and locked the door. The protesters were told by a white police officer to remove themselves from the sidewalk or risk being arrested. That prompted the second confrontation. As bike police formed a wall, protesters yelled, “Get your knee off my neck.”
Protest organizer Nysse Nelson then addressed the crowd.
“These policemen are willing to arrest us for being on the sidewalk,” she said, “but they are not willing to arrest someone for a violent crime behind these doors. What the fuck kind of system have they designed? There are protesters on the outside and violent people on the inside, but we are being threatened for protesting. Ain’t that some shit?”
The Enough Is Enough contingent drew a large police presence that evening. Fort Worth police placed officers between protesters and downtown business entrances, a departure from their handling of the West 7th corridor.
As the confrontations unfolded, protesters with United My Justice marched nearby. The movement’s founder, Donnell Ballard, has denounced the uninvited flooding of private businesses by Enough Is Enough protesters. Both groups appeared cordial as their ranks marched past each other last evening.
Enough Is Enough organizers returned to the Tarrant County Courthouse to announce their plans. Fort Worth police did not tolerate protests inside downtown restaurants, organizer Smith said. The police reaction that night has shown where Fort Worth’s powers-that-be have vested interests, he said.
Enough Is Enough organizers called on their supporters to join a movement to “shut down” every downtown business and restaurant until their core demands — demilitarizing police, removing police from Fort Worth and Crowley public schools, and funding a new mental health/jail diversion program — are met.