The normally ceremonial last day of the legislative session briefly descended into chaos on Monday, as proceedings in the House were disrupted by large protests and at least one Republican lawmaker called immigration authorities on the protesters.Here is a tweet of a Facebook post Rinaldi put up explaining his version of what happened.
State Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, said he called U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement while hundreds of people dressed in red T-shirts unfurled banners and chanted in opposition to the state’s new sanctuary cities law. His action enraged Hispanic legislators nearby, leading to a tussle in which each side accused the other of threats and violence.
In a statement, Rinaldi said state Rep. Poncho Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass, "threatened my life on the House floor," and that Rinaldi is currently under the protection of the Department of Public Safety as a result.
“I was pushed, jostled and someone threatened to kill me,” Rinaldi said. “It was basically just bullying.”
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Nevárez said in an interview with the Tribune that he put his hands on Rinaldi and told him to take his argument outside the House chamber. "But was I going to shoot the guy? No," he said.
After the incident, Nevárez tweeted in response to Rinaldi's claims: "He's a liar and hateful man. Got no use for him. God bless him."
DPS was not available to comment Monday because of the Memorial Day holiday.
Hispanic Democratic lawmakers involved in the altercation said it wasn’t physical but indicated that Rinaldi got into people’s faces and cursed repeatedly. Video shot from the House floor shows both Republicans and Democrats pushing each other.
“He came up to us and said, ‘I’m glad I just called ICE to have all these people deported,'” said state Rep. César Blanco, D-El Paso, whose account was echoed by state Reps. Armando Walle, D-Houston, and Ramon Romero, D-Fort Worth.