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El Paso police plan citations for ‘Open Texas’ protesters

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UPDATE: Sammy Carrejo, the organizer of the “Open Texas” rally, posted video on Facebook on Monday of police officers coming to his house to issue him a citation for not having a required permit and for violating the prohibition against mass gatherings during a protest. The officers said he was the only one being cited. However, city spokeswoman Laura Cruz-Acosta said: “He has been the only one cited at this time. Police are still investigating.”

El Paso police plan to issue citations to those suspected of violating public health orders during a “Open Texas” rally in Downtown El Paso on Saturday, a city spokeswoman said.

About 100 people attended the rally, which was closely observed by El Paso police. No citations were issued at the event.

“Citations were not issued on Saturday, in an effort to not escalate an already emotional situation. Strong-arm tactics are not always the best approach and it is not uncommon for the city to issue warrants and citations after an incident,” city spokeswoman Laura Cruz-Acosta said Sunday in an email to El Paso Matters.

“PD was present to prevent any possible violent altercations and the organizers were advised of the do’s and don’ts, to include the need to obtain appropriate permits. PD is investigating the incident to include obtaining proper permits and will issue citations, warrants accordingly at a later date,” Cruz-Acosta said.

Sammy Carrejo, one of the organizers of the rally, said participants would fight any citations. “They’re trying to silence us,” he said in a brief interview. 

Carrejo said the organizers had been in contact with police, including Police Chief Greg Allen, before the rally. He would not elaborate.

Cruz-Acosta confirmed that Allen spoke with the protesters, who were “advised of the do’s and don’ts.”

Sammy Carrejo, an organizer of the “Open Texas” rally, leads protesters gathered near the El Paso Courthouse in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday, April 25, 2020. Demonstrators demanded that the city lift its orders related to business closures, face covering requirements, and social distancing; however, many demonstrators also displayed presidential campaign signs. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

The city’s “Stay Home, Work Safe” order prohibits almost all public gatherings except for performing essential work and limited shopping for essentials. Gatherings that block public rights of way, such as sidewalks, generally require a permit from the city.

Video of the rally shows protesters often standing less than six feet from others, as required by the public health order. Some of the protesters were not wearing masks, a new requirement of the order that took effect Thursday night.

The protesters were calling on governments to relax restrictions instituted to slow the spread of COVID-19  and allow the reopening of businesses.

Cover photo: Sammy Carrejo, left, an organizer of the “Open Texas” rally, leads protesters gathered near the El Paso Courthouse in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday, April 25, 2020. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

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Robert Moore

Robert Moore is the founder and CEO of El Paso Matters. He has been a journalist in the Texas Borderlands since 1986. He spent most of his career at the El Paso Times, serving in a variety of leadership roles. His work has received a number of top journalism honors including Pulitzer Prize finalist, the Burl Osborne award for editorial leadership, the James Madison Award from the Texas Freedom of Information Foundation, the Jack Douglas Award from Texas Associated Press Managing Editors and the Frank W. Mayborn Award for Community Leadership from the Texas Press Association. In 2013, he was the recipient of the Benjamin C. Bradlee Editor of the Year Award from the National Press Association. As a freelance journalist, Moore’s work has appeared in the Washington Post, Texas Monthly, ProPublica, National Public Radio, The Guardian and other publications. He has been featured as an expert on the border by CNN, MSNBC, BBC, CBC and PBS.

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