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By Cameron Wallace
AUSTIN — Hundreds of protesters braved the heat Tuesday afternoon to gather on the South Steps of the Capitol as state lawmakers kicked off their special session inside.
Participants in the One Texas Resistance rally represented a diverse cross-section of organizations and issues, but a common message among speakers was unity.
“Our diversity is our nation’s greatest strength,” said Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Somos los Estados Unidos, no somos los Estados divididos [We are the United States, not the divided States].”
One of the major focuses of the rally was the proposed anti-trans “bathroom bills” on Gov. Greg Abbott’s agenda for the 30-day special session. Two versions of the bill — House Bill 46 and House Bill 50 — have been filed by Representative Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton. HB 46 would apply to all government entities, while HB 50 would apply only to schools.
“We all understand that trans lives matter, gay lives matter, lesbians lives matter. Every Texan’s life matters,” said the Rev. Carmarion Anderson, a black trans woman from Dallas. “We’re talking about a ridiculous bill. Why are we talking about a ridiculous bill when the suicide rate of our youth is sky high?”
Speakers also called attention to a bill that would prevent taxpayer money from going to abortion coverage, and create new disclosure requirements for victims of abortion-related injuries.
“For over 25 years, at every stage of my life, Planned Parenthood has been there for me, providing me with affordable, expert healthcare, and honest, non-judgmental information.” said activist Soraya Colli. “There have been times when I needed healthcare and I simply couldn’t afford it. Planned Parenthood always told me to bring what I could, and they would take care of the rest.”
Another bill that received substantial criticism would create a school-voucher program for those with disabilities. Critics say that the voucher programs would take money away from public schools and give it to private schools that are already well-funded.
“Private schools largely do not take kids with special needs,” said speaker Lisa Flores. “I resent my child and other children like him being used as political pawns. Education is not a partisan issue.”
Protesters also focused on the possibility that Abbott will call for more anti-immigration measures like Senate Bill 4, the “show me your papers” law that passed during the regular session.
After the rally, protesters entered the Capitol and began chanting in the rotunda.