The city of Dallas just sent a clear message when it comes to its coronavirus prevention strategy: While uncontrolled outdoor protests are fine, tightly controlled indoor events are not allowed.
If that sounds a bit nonsensical to you, it’s probably worth noting that a majority of the protests are affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement, while the indoor event in question was a conference for a conservative group, the Young Americans for Liberty.
The YAL’s “Mobilize 2020” event was shut down just three days before it was scheduled to open on Thursday after Dallas issued a “force majeure” order, shutting down the three-day event, according to Fox News.
The event was set to draw 1,400 students from around the country to hear prominent speakers and receive training in activism. It comes a month after Houston used a similar move to shut down the Texas Republican Convention.
A “force majeure” clause exists in contracts to force cancellation in the event of an emergency. Given that the same coronavirus emergency existed when the event was canceled as when it was booked, and that new COVID-19 cases were on the decline in the city as the cancellation happened, according to KXAS-TV — it’s unclear what the impetus was for the last-minute change.
“Dallas waited until we had students, elected officials, and investors on their way and our stages and banners were in the parking lot of the Omni [Hotel] before canceling it,” YAL President Cliff Maloney told The Texan news site.
On everything from masks to social distancing and capacity limits, Maloney said, the Omni “worked every step of the way to meet every irrational demand from the city, and I thank them for that.”
YAL & the U.S. economy now have something in common — we’ve both been shut down by an overreaching gov’t.#Mobilize2020 has been canceled & it’s more important than ever to organize on a grassroots level for liberty.
Apply to be an Election Coordinator: https://t.co/M8wjMcm0Tb
— Young Americans for Liberty (@YALiberty) August 4, 2020
“There was no discussion, the city just called the hotel and informed them they were invoking the force majeure clause,” he added.
“If they were going to do this, it should’ve been done three weeks ago, not when we basically had people sitting in the parking lot.”
Part of that is because of costs. Maloney says that while the YAL got its money back from the Omni Hotel, most vendor contracts require a five-to-10-day cancelation period for a refund.
Ironically, Maloney said that his organization had originally chosen to move the event from Austin to Dallas because it thought Dallas would be easier to work with, given the pandemic. That didn’t turn out to be correct.
“We took a gamble that they would be more willing to work with us and apparently we were wrong,” Maloney told The Texan.
He told a similar tale when interviewed by BlazeTV — also noting Dallas is a liberal city that allows Black Lives Matter protests, but wasn’t going to allow the YAL to hold a convention.
#DallasTX officials decided last-minute to shut down @YALiberty‘s event scheduled for this weekend, citing “public health risks due to coronavirus.” — @LibertyCliff tells @ElijahSchaffer he believes the city had a DIFFERENT motive… pic.twitter.com/rDWjZEVyIN
— BlazeTV (@BlazeTV) August 4, 2020
Out of 100 elected officials who were set to attend the event, one was noted lockdown critic Kristi Noem, the Republican governor of South Dakota. She was also set to speak at the event.
“I think it’s surprising, coming from Texas,” she said during a Tuesday appearance on Glenn Beck’s radio show.
The City of Dallas just CANCELED at the last moment @YALiberty‘s #Mobilize2020 conference, but had no problems with BLM protests. One of the speakers, @govkristinoem, said this is “SURPRISING coming from Texas.” pic.twitter.com/kwnreHF4n0
— Glenn Beck (@glennbeck) August 4, 2020
“I mean, they’re the home of the Alamo, the ‘come and take it’ flag. It’s supposed to be one of the best places in America and a state that stood up and protected people’s liberties [and] God-given rights. These young people were all coming to exercise their First Amendment freedom of assembly, and to have the city of Dallas pull the rug out from underneath them, I think, is an absolute shame.
“Did they do this to protesters in the [Black Lives Matter] movement? No, they didn’t,” Noem added.
Our First Amendment guarantees the right to peaceably assemble. I thought Texas was supposed to be a bastion of Freedom? https://t.co/UNamuZGPED
— Governor Kristi Noem (@govkristinoem) August 4, 2020
At least YAL managed to take a lesson away from this:
— Young Americans for Liberty (@YALiberty) August 4, 2020
Again, if cities are this concerned about political events where the hotel and organizers have worked together every step of the way to ensure compliance with corinavirus regulations and the city cancels it anyway, the same scrutiny should be applied to protests.
The lack of consistency also seems to be deliberate. It’s probably not a coincidence that while the Dallas mayor’s position is officially non-partisan, the city’s current mayor Eric Johnson, is a Democrat, as was the mayor who preceded him, Mike Rawlings, who’d held the office since 2011.
This is similar to how other Democratic-controlled cities have behaved.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose leniency toward the protests has contrasted with the draconian measures he’s placed upon religious congregations, has described what’s transpired since George Floyd’s death “a national phenomenon, that was not something that the government could just say, you know, ‘go away.'”
This was in July, when authorities arguably had the capacity to control those events, even in New York City. It’s now August and cities like Dallas definitely have that capacity. They’re not willing to. When it comes to the YAL, though, “force majeure” rules the day, no matter how much the Omni works with the city.
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