By Rylee Seavers | Staff Writer
The Republican Party of McLennan County hosted Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for the “Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner” on Thursday evening in Knox Hall of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame.
Prior to the event, protesters gathered outside Knox Hall to protest Abbott’s positions on refugees, climate change, LGBTQ rights and women’s rights. Protesters chanted “climate change is real” and “muslims are people too.” The protest was nonviolent, and Waco police were present.
“I came because I disagree with the way that Governor Abbott has been handling the refugee situation,” recent Baylor graduate Daniel White said.
White said he disagrees with Abbott’s statement that he would not allow refugees in Texas because of security concerns. White said he believes the current vetting processes are adequate and the United States has a responsibility to aid refugees due to involvement in the Middle East.
“People who are hurting, people who are affected by these atrocities… need to know that not everyone is afraid of them,” recent Baylor graduate Makenzie Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald said she understands that people are afraid but believes that this fear builds due to lack of facts. She wants those affected by the refugee crisis to know that people care about their safety.
“I fought in two wars. I raised my hand, and I said, ‘I will defend the Constitution with my life, if necessary, to protect and defend those constitutional rights.’ Those people who are out [there] protesting, I fought for them, as much as I did for anybody else,” chairman of the Republican Party of McLennan County, Jon Ker, said. “We’re always going to have disagreements, but that’s OK, so long as we don’t become disagreeable.”
Protesters left Knox Hall before the event began. They made the decision to leave Knox Hall on their own, a Waco police officer said.
Knox Hall was filled with supporters of Abbott and leaders from McLennan and surrounding counties. Ker opened the event with prayer and introduced Abbott.
“I’d rather be anywhere but Austin, Texas,” Abbott said to open his speech.
Abbott said that the last session of the of Texas Legislature “made a big difference.” He said Texas added more jobs than there are residents of Waco, has more people employed than in the history of the state, made Texas an open carry state and passed the toughest border security plan of any state in the United States.
Abbott also said that if Texas were its own country again, it would have the 10th largest economy in the world – larger than those of Canada, Australia and Russia.
“I think the Texas governor is more powerful than Putin,” Abbott said.
Keeping Texans safe and secure is a top priority, Abbott said, and he is a supporter of legal immigration. He said that Texas cannot change immigration policy but can enforce existing immigration policy.
“What must be stopped is illegal immigration,” Abbott said.
Abbott intends to ban sanctuary cities and will sign Texas Senate Bill 4 into law, if it is passed by the Texas state House of Representatives, he said. Abbott also said that the federal government must fulfill its implied, limited powers and “let Texans govern Texans.”
“With any politician… there’s gonna be differences of opinion… The core of [Gov. Abbott’s] beliefs and what he represents, I support those things and I support him,” local attorney and event attendee, Robert Callahan, said.
Callahan has been a vocal opponent of President Trump, but said that people must still be active participants in the republican party, in order to work for change. Callahan attended the event to show his support for Abbott and honor Abbott’s leadership, in the spirit of Reagan and Lincoln.
There were jellybeans and pennies on every table to honor Reagan and Lincoln. The event lasted for one hour.
Abbott did not take any questions from the media after the event.