Texas's top state politicians agree: They want Shelley Luther set free
The great state of Texas is having some schizophrenic convulsions as it tries to deal with the Wuhan virus. Even as the Republican state government is among the first in America to re-open, local governments are drilling down on tyrannical people-control efforts.
In mid-April, Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, was one of the first governors in America to announce that he would begin re-opening his state. That was a tiered opening, however, and did not include barbershops, tanning salons, and hair salons, all of which tend to be small businesses with one or two owners entirely dependent on those businesses for their livelihood.
Abbot's was a logical decision. Texas is home to 28,995,881 people, but it's had only 32,879 diagnosed Wuhan virus cases (that is, 0.11% of the population got diagnosed) and 890 virus deaths (0.003% of the population). These numbers aren't an epidemic, and they're certainly not an excuse to plunge the state into a deep depression.
Not all of Texas has agreed at an ideological level with Abbott's plans. At the end of April, for example, Houston's Democrat town council tried to use police power to enforce extreme social distancing measures. The Houston Police Officers' Union refused to implement what it termed "draconian measures."
Things went really crazy, though, in the City of Dallas, which is part of Dallas County. Dallas, incidentally, has a Democrat mayor.
Shelley Luther, who owns a Dallas hair salon, needed to feed her family, and her employees needed to feed their families. She therefore opened up her shop last week.
Dallas County sent Luther a cease-and-desist letter and, when she refused to comply, dragged her off to court. On Tuesday, the judge demanded that she grovel and, when she respectfully refused, slapped her with a seven-day jail sentence and a $7,000 fine. At more or less the same time, Gov. Abbott announced that hair salons could open on Friday.
In response to the uproar about the judge's order, state attorney general Ken Paxton (a Republican) sent a letter to Judge Eric Moyé accusing him of abusing his discretion:
#NEW: Texas Attorney General @KenPaxtonTX sent letter to Dallas Judge Eric Moye saying Moye abused his discretion by putting Shelley Luther, owner of Salon A La Mode, in jail for opening her business despite the #COVID19 shutdown. pic.twitter.com/pWficGXz67— Jason Whitely (@JasonWhitely) May 6, 2020
The amazing takeaway in the letter is that the Dallas County D.A., while busy prosecuting Luther for trying to keep her business going and feeding her family, had earlier stated that he would "not prosecute theft of personal items less than $750 unless the evidence shows that the alleged theft was for economic gain."
Gov. Abbot then issued a statement calling for Luther's immediate release from jail:
— Jason Howerton (@jason_howerton) May 6, 2020
Texas's lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick (a Republican), was even more proactive, offering to pay Luther's $7,000 fine and submit to house arrest in her place so she could return to work.
7 days in jail, no bail and a $7K fine is outrageous. No surprise Texans are responding. I’m covering the $7K fine she had to pay and I volunteer to be placed under House Arrest so she can go to work and feed her kids. #txlege #TexansHelpingTexans https://t.co/gdtMLAHFV5— Dan Patrick (@DanPatrick) May 6, 2020
While Texas's Republican state officials were trying to rein in one power-crazed county, word was breaking about Ector County. On Tuesday, the county used its SWAT team to arrest peaceful armed protesters gathered outside a bar in West Odessa.
Texas is an open-carry state, so their being armed was not illegal. The problem, according to the sheriff, was that the men were daring to protect the bar owner's decision to open her business, which she deemed essential to her.
Video of the men's and bar owner's arrest went viral thanks to the overkill on the part of sheriff's team, which showed up with an MRAP and heavily armed sheriffs:
Ector County Sheriff’s SWAT team raiding a peaceful protest at Big Daddy Zane’s in West Odessa. The bar opened this afternoon despite Abbott’s latest orders, saying “all businesses are essential.”— JuYeon Kim (@JuYeonKimTV) May 5, 2020
Full coverage tonight on @KPEJFOX24News & @Big2News pic.twitter.com/WHiwhmisgs
The story also went viral because of two SWAT team members who were, to put it politely, amply endowed with abdominal avoirdupois.
Look at the cops that did that swat thing today. Omg. pic.twitter.com/fnIOCroGLI— VK2 Reject Tyranny (@2222vj) May 6, 2020
— Genesis-129.org (@monkeysgirl351) May 5, 2020
(The GoFundMe later vanished.)
Back when I was in law school, my torts professor always named his hypothetical tortfeasors Bubba and Big Belly. Those are appropriate names for law enforcement officials who apparently care more about donuts than the Constitution.
The fact that Ector County is staunchly Republican shows that government power-grabs are not limited to Democrats. They're just more common with Democrats. This needs to stop, and it needs to stop now, while we're still vaguely recognizable as a constitutional republic with a Bill of Individual Rights.