Shelley Luther, a salon owner arrested for opening her business during a governor-issued statewide shutdown, announced her intent to run in the Texas Senate at Saturday’s Back the Blue rally at Denton’s Square.
Luther is running to fill the seat left by state Sen. Pat Fallon, R-Prosper, in the upcoming special election whose date is not yet determined.
“Out of the 31 districts for the Senate seat to open up where I live in Pilot Point, you better bet I’m putting my hat in the ring,” Luther said. “So, if you want someone who doesn’t have to tell you how to fight, if you want someone that doesn’t have to tell you they’ll stand up and go to cheer for you, I’ll do it again and again because I will fight to protect our Texas values.”
Texas House Rep. Jerry Sringer, who spoke at Saturday’s demonstration, is also running for the position.
The North Texas College Republicans organized the rally and co-hosted with the Denton County Young Republicans. NTXCR Chairman Jack Sweet said the purpose of the rally was to show support for law enforcement.
“The North Texas College Republicans has good relations with law enforcement in the City of Denton and in Denton County as a whole, and we believe that it is important to show our law enforcement officers support and encouragement,” Sweet said. “We believe that it is important to remember that our men and women in blue are not merely public servants, but that they are also our friends, family, neighbors, community members and fellow citizens.”
Speakers included Sweet, Luther, Springer Jr., DCYR Vice-Chairman Tyler A. Miller-Shain, former Denton PD chief Lee Howell, Constable Elect Danny Fletcher and Denton County Chief Deputy Wess Tyler.
Several hundred people attended the rally and while NTXCR requested the crowd wear masks, they said they would not require them.
Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order requiring Texans to wear masks in public spaces. Sweet said their “comment on masks is not reflective of any stance on the Governor’s mask mandate.”
“The fact of the matter is that we want people to be mindful of others’ health and of their own,” Sweet said. “But we’re not going to require masks at an outdoor event. That would be impractical and unnecessary.”
The crowd also included counter-protestors from the Black Lives Matter movement and Denton Left activists, who stayed on the corner of North Elm and West Hickory Streets.
Kevin Tarver, the father of UNT student Darius Tarver who was killed by police earlier in the year, attended the counter-protests, interacting largely with the Back the Blue group to talk about his experiences pursuing justice for Darius.
A spokesperson for Denton Left said they condemn Back the Blue for having “elements of a hate group.”
“Back The Blue was formed as a right-wing response to the Black Lives Matter movement,” the representative said. “They view the calls to defund them as an attack on police. Violent, far-right elements use these protests to infiltrate and recruit more moderate elements to their ideology. We also oppose their support of police during a time when they have been brutalizing protesters and people of color in well-documented cases. We are coming together to show Denton is a city that says ‘Black Lives Matter,’ not ‘Back the Blue.’”
DCYR Vice-Chairman Tyler A. Miller-Shain said he disagrees with any claims calling the rally racist and denounced city council member Deb Armintor for calling the rally a “Klan rally” in a Facebook post.
“I cannot tell you enough the amount of respect I have for the men and women every day who put on that uniform and that badge and without a wince, protect our communities while understanding the dangerous call to action that every day they rise towards may very well be their last,” Miller-Shain said. “So when a city council member, who has a track record for her radical beliefs, denigrates, disparages and vilifies our great men and women, who we are here to vocally support, calls this a Klan rally, I find it disgusting and sad that being outspoken by law enforcement officers is somehow a partisan issue in today’s society.”
Miller-Shain said the crowd was “an incredible group of patriots that truly love their community.”
“All we wanted to do today was gather as a community and support these wonderful officers,” Miller-Shain said. “Sadly, we are currently living in trying times. In 2020, it is somehow racist to hold a rally in support of our community’s protectors[…]”
Featured Image: Shelley Luther announces her intent to run in the Texas Senate election during a Back the Blue rally at the Denton County Courthouse on-the-square on Aug. 22, 2020. Luther is a salon owner who was arrested after opening her business during a governor-issued statewide shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Image by Ricardo Vazquez Garcia