AUSTIN (KXAN) — A variety of groups from around Texas who mainly described themselves as “libertarian” held a demonstration outside the closed-off Texas Capitol on Sunday afternoon. The demonstration Sunday was not violent and consisted of dozens of people — many openly carrying semiautomatic weapons, rifles, and knives– standing outside the capitol grounds and talking with each other. Within four hours, everyone in the group left the demonstration.
On Saturday, a smaller group demonstrated outside the Texas Capitol as well. While the Texas Department of Public Safety has closed off the capitol grounds through Wednesday following concerns over violent extremists, a spokesperson for the department described the demonstration Sunday as “uneventful” and said there had been no arrests at the Texas Capitol all weekend.
On Friday, Texas DPS Director Steven McCraw said in a press release that the “Texas Department of Public Safety is aware of armed protests planned at the Texas State Capitol this week and violent extremists who may seek to exploit constitutionally protected events to conduct criminal acts.”
Individuals present at the demonstration at the Texas Capitol Sunday told KXAN they took these concerns from DPS into account, walking around the capitol grounds in plain clothes and with concealed weapons beforehand to see if any “provocateurs” had shown up to co-opt the event.
“The big worry was we were gonna have tons of MAGA, QAnon people here to come and disrupt it but it hasn’t been the case,” said Stephen Hunt, who had traveled from the Abilene area to attend this event.
Hunt arrived to the event with a group, but said he didn’t want to identify the group because it’s “one of those things where people naturally come and find it.”
He shared that he was not a Biden supporter or a Trump supporter in the presidential election and commented that “hopefully this election has proven to people we need some change in our election laws.”
Groups present on Sunday who spoke to KXAN said they came to Austin from different parts of the state. Several individuals present told KXAN that planning for the event Sunday began in October — before the election happened — as a rally to bring together libertarian groups express support for the protection of First and Second Amendment rights.
The gathering comes as all 50 state capitols are being watched for possible unrest leading up to the Inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
The possibility of violence comes on the heels of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 — widely considered to be incited by President Donald Trump.
The photos below show what the Texas Capitol has looked like this weekend:
On Friday, the Texas Department of Public Safety announced the Capitol would close through Wednesday, after the presidential Inauguration.
Texas DPS says it will have extra personnel and resources at the Capitol and is working with the FBI and the Austin Police Department in monitoring events.
The Capitol was closed after armed protesters showed up on Tuesday as state lawmakers returned for the first day of the legislative session.
Markie Martin, a NewsNation correspondent, reported receiving a courtesy letter from her hotel in downtown Austin on Saturday morning. The letter warned guests to “use caution when leaving the hotel and regularly check the local news and official city sources.”
Some armed demonstrators Sunday were wearing patches which referenced the Boogaloo movement — which the Anti-Defamation League describes as an anti-government extremist group. But attendees emphasized they came from several different groups.
Kris Hunter, who traveled to Austin from McLennan County as part of the Centrex Quick Reactionary Force, described the demonstration as “just an event for a lot of us to come together, meet each other.”
“A lot of us have been in correspondence for a long time, [we want to] show support for the First Amendment, Second amendment and on down the list, we are big advocates for the Bill of Rights,” Hunter continued. He noted his group has marched alongside Black Lives Matter demonstrations and Anti-mask/anti-lockdown demonstrations.
Hunter added that this event was part of a larger, national effort organizing at capitols across the country.
“We correspond with each other, there was a meeting of all of us that are involved in these groups in Kentucky,” Hunter said, noting he drove fifteen hours to attend that two-hour meeting in Kentucky to plan Sunday’s event. “The entire point of the event was to not attach any particular group to it, this was supposed to be a uniting type event, all of us that are worried about our rights being trampled on, like I said, First Amendment, Third Fourth Fifth, the Bill of Rights, we wanted everyone to come out together.”
Many demonstrators wanted to make clear that they don’t agree with the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol more than a week ago.
“Unfortunately last week in Washington D.C. there were some things that happened that we absolutely disagree with, we condemned the actions of those who breached the Capitol and it seemed like, this event got lumped in or was being paralleled with what happened in D.C., that’s not the case at all,” said Kris Hunter, who was present at the Capitol Sunday. “We are mostly libertarians, we don’t care about Republican or Democratic politics.”
As people left the event for the day, they told KXAN they don’t plan to have any other events at the Capitol in the week to come.
A DPS spokesperson said as of Sunday afternoon, no arrests had been made at the Texas capitol the entire weekend.