South Texas ‘chainsaw man’ denounced at ‘Black Lives Matter’ rally

State & Regional

'That is not what we do or who we are.' McAllen mayor tweets

EDINBURG, TEXAS (Border Report) — An estimated 1,000 protesters attended South Texas’ the largest Black Lives Matter rally in South Texas on Saturday, a day after a chainsaw-wielding man was caught on camera threatening protesters in downtown McAllen.

McAllen police arrested 44-year-old Daniel Peña on Friday night after video showed him earlier that day yelling racial slurs and repeatedly telling a small group of protesters to go home as he threatened them with a loud chainsaw. Peña is charged with four counts of deadly conduct and one count of assault, both Class A misdemeanors, CBS4 reported.

The video went viral on social media this past weekend and was the subject of much discussion at Saturday’s protest rally at Edinburg City Hall, just blocks from the Hidalgo County Courthouse.

Protest organizers on Saturday repeatedly stressed the importance of holding a “peaceful” vigil, and volunteers said no one would act like “chainsaw man.”

The moniker was picked up after McAllen Mayor Jim Darling tweeted Saturday morning: “The ‘chainsaw man’ has been arrested. We will not tolerate such conduct in our City of McAllen.”

Bond for Peña was set at $17,000, and by Monday, he was released, McAllen Mayor Pro-Tem Veronica Whitacre told Border Report.

McAllen Mayor Pro-Tem Veronica Whitacre (Courtesy Photo)

“It’s unfortunate that it happened,” Whitacre said. “I don’t know whatever his reasons. It’s unfortunate his reaction. It doesn’t look good for anybody. But McAllen is getting support for making sure he was taken care of quickly enough so there wasn’t anything worse than a few words said, and they got him off the street as quickly as possible. And for that we’re lucky.”

The incident has drawn national attention, trending on Twitter, and was elevated after Mercedes Schlapp, a senior campaign adviser for Donald Trump, also weighed in on social media but in support of Peña’s actions.

Mercedes Schlapp on Saturday tweeted her applause for Pena’s actions, Politico reported. But after being criticized for showing support for the incident, in which a racial slur was used, she withdrew the post and issued an apology. “I deeply apologize and I retweeted without watching the full video. I deleted the tweet,” Schlapp wrote. “I would never knowingly promote the use of that word. This is time for healing the nation and not division.”

Despite temperatures in the upper 90s with high humidity, the Saturday afternoon protest in Edinburg drew an estimated 1,000 mostly Hispanic people. Organizers required all participants to wear masks and passed out hand sanitizer as well as free bottled water, hamburgers and chips. They shared homemade posters and many gave out free stuffed animals.

Chanting “No justice, no peace,” and “I can’t breathe,” demonstrators lined both sides of W. University Drive near the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley. The crowd appeared to be mostly young, 20 or 30-somethings and some wore UTRGV shirts and medical school attire.

At one point, the crowd gathered in a quiet circle and took a knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — the amount of time that George Floyd was held down and a Minneapolis police officer put a knee to his neck before he stopped breathing two weeks ago on May 25.

About 1,000 demonstrators participated in a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest on Saturday, June 6, 2020, in Edinburg, Texas, in front of city hall. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report)

Since Floyd’s death, protests and riots have erupted across the country, but Saturday’s event was only the fourth such protest to be held in the Rio Grande Valley, a predominantly Hispanic region. Many demonstrators said that despite a spike in coronavirus in South Texas, they came to show the nation that Hispanics in South Texas also stand with the Black Lives Matter movement, and that they do not condone any type of prejudice against minorities.

“Black Lives Matter and these injustices need to stop. Although we don’t experience it everyday here in the Valley, this is a worldwide issue outside of this bubble and we can educate people and come togethe,” said R.J. Inocencio who held an “I can’t breathe” sign as he stood shoulder to shoulder with others on Saturday afternoon waving at honking cars.

“A lot of young people are starting to realize what’s been kept from us: The truth of politics and the truth of Republicanism. I hate to make it political, but there’s no way around it,” Elias Hinojosa, said as he protested Saturday with a black mask and holding a sign that read, “The system is rigged.” “So that’s why we have mass incarceration. That’s why we have a war on drugs. So they can dismantle the colored community. We can’t let that happen anymore.”

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