Extremists, police embed in protests in El Paso, across Texas; 3 arrested locally are identified
EL PASO, Texas -- Demonstrators gathering to protest the death of unarmed George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police believe they are being infiltrated by groups trying to provoke police.
The director of the Texas Department of Public safety says there is evidence to support that claim.
“There’s violent extremists, there’s anarchists, there’s Antifa. But there’s also criminals that are using this as an opportunity to exploit to loot and to hurt others. That's happened,” said DPS' Steve McCraw.
An organizer of Sunday’s protest at central El Paso's Memorial Park, Ashley Traweek, told ABC-7 that she witnessed someone who may have been trying to infiltrate the group of protesters.
“It’s things that we’ve been warned about. Something that I saw myself on Sunday was an individual who was covered in all black, like he didn’t want to be identified, spray painting the sidewalk," she explained. "The peaceful people, we stopped him. But he ran off before I could get a picture."
Trawee added, "So as far as people infiltrating, that’s what we’ve discussed. And we’ve discussed how to identify these people, and anybody that’s agitating - how to remove them from the space.”
McCraw said law enforcement is embedding undercover agents to try to catch infiltrators and arrest them to try to keep protesters safe and let protesters exercise their Constitutional right to demonstrate.
“We did have detectives from the police department contact us,” said Traweek.
“We do have special agents embedded trying to identify criminals that are leveraging, or are using this as an opportunity, exploiting these demonstrations,” added McCraw.
Traweek believes it was infiltrators who provoked police into firing teargas into crowds at the park, injuring peaceful protesters.
“I’m worried that someone might upset the cops and they’re going to tear gas everybody, because that’s what they did on Sunday,” Traweek said.
El Paso police have acknowledged they shot bean bags and tear gas into Sunday’s protest crowd.
27-year-old Destiny Garcia was caught in the crossfire and shot with what she believes was a beanbag. She suffered a large six-inch-wide bruise on her right leg.
Police said two officers were hurt when someone in the protest crowd threw back a tear gas canister initially shot into the crowd by police.
Three people were arrested, but were not connected to officer’s injuries.
Authorities on Wednesday identified them as 23-year-old Demetrio Martinez, 24-year-old Abraham Urueta and 25-year old Andre Jefferson. The trio were all charged with riot participation.
The Texas governor’s office has also released a threat assessment report showing what the DPS is identifying as domestic terrorist groups.