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Gov. Abbott declares state of disaster in response to civil unrest, authorizes Texas peace officers

The order will allow the governor to designate federal agents to serve as Texas peace officers.

Gov. Greg Abbott has placed Texas under a state of disaster as civil unrest has gripped the country following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio have been the locations of large crowds peacefully protesting racial injustice this week. Some in the crowds have later turned violent, smashing windows and looting businesses.

The governor had already deployed 1,500 Department of Public Safety officers and the National Guard to assist local law enforcement agencies on Saturday.

The order, considered "a proclamation certifying that threats and incidents of violence constitute and pose an imminent threat of disaster," said peaceful protesters themselves should be protected from harm while they exercise their First Amendment rights.

It will allow the governor to designate federal agents to serve as Texas peace officers. The governor's office said it's a move to ensure public safety and curb the threat of property damage.

Abbott released the following statement on the declaration:

"Every Texan and every American has the right to protest and I encourage all Texans to exercise their First Amendment rights.

"However, violence against others and the destruction of property is unacceptable and counterproductive. As protests have turned violent in various areas across the state, it is crucial that we maintain order, uphold public safety, and protect against property damage or loss. 

By authorizing additional federal agents to serve as Texas Peace Officers we will help protect people’s safety while ensuring that peaceful protesters can continue to make their voices heard."

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