Houston mayor cancels planned and safeguarded GOP convention, but attended unfettered protests with thousands

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Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is under fire by Republicans who accused him of being a hypocrite and for staging “a political stunt” by canceling a planned GOP event.

The Texas Republican Party is reportedly suing the Democratic mayor after he announced on Wednesday the cancellation of next week’s state GOP convention amid COVID-19 fears. Republican leaders called out Turner for what they see as a purely political decision, accusing him of hypocrisy since he supported recent Black Lives Matter protests which saw thousands of demonstrators taking part.


(Source: Mayor Turner/YouTube)

Turner claimed that “no one wanted to make this to even appear to be political” during remarks at the Wednesday press conference he held.

A contract between the State Republican Executive Committee and Houston First Corporation, the convention venue’s operator, was ordered by Turner to be reviewed by the city’s legal department earlier Wednesday.

“A letter has been sent to the (executive committee) of the state Republican Party by Houston first signed by the president and the chairman canceling this convention,” Turner said at the press conference.

“Where there are provisions that would allow us to cancel this convention — we will exercise those provisions,” he said. “And the plan is to exercise those provisions to cancel this agreement, this contract, today — to not go forward with this convention.”

Texas Republican Chairman James Dickey slammed the Democrat in a statement issued after the press conference.

“After allowing tens of thousands of protesters to peaceably assemble in the same city, in the same area, without any of the safety precautions and measures we have taken, he is seeking to deny a political Party’s critical electoral function that should be equally protected under the constitution,” Dickey said.

“Our legal team is assessing the ability of the City to act at this time in this manner and weighing our legal options,” he added. “We are prepared to take all necessary steps to proceed in the peaceable exercise of our constitutionally protected rights.”

Paul Simpson, the chair of the Harris County GOP, called Turner’s move a “hypocritical flip flop on public gatherings” and “a political stunt.”

“While he joined in massive marches in the streets last month, he has now blocked Republican grassroots activists from peaceably assembling even under the most strong health safeguards,” Simpson told The Texas Tribune. “The mayor should not abuse power for political ends.”

The mayor had been pushing for Republicans to hold a virtual event amid the rising number of new coronavirus infections and hospitalizations. But the Texas GOP’s executive committee voted to move ahead with the in-person convention, planning various safety measures to combat the spread of the virus.

“This is a political convention, and the last thing you want to do in the midst of a pandemic is to politicize it or make it seem like you are going out of your way to close the door,” he said at the press conference.

“With his words today, Mayor Turner is saying Houston does not want business. He does not want Houston to get back to work. He is not able to move forward and rise to these new challenges,” Dickey said in his statement. “This is an opportunity to show how to get back to work safely and how to hold conventions safely with cutting edge technology.”

“These are some very serious times and the public safety of the people attending the convention, the employees, their family members, the people in the city of Houston — the public health concerns are first and foremost, paramount,” Turner said Wednesday.

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Frieda Powers

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