TYLER — A man who was in the middle of two violent incidents during counter-protests Sunday in Tyler said supporters of U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, President Donald Trump and Blue Lives Matter were not the ones fighting.
Rick Garrett of Tyler saw his photo on the front page of Thursday’s Tyler Morning Telegraph and saw comments online accusing people attending the Back the Blue rally of fighting supporters of Hank Gilbert.
Gilbert, of Tyler, is a Democrat running against Republican Gohmert for the 1st Congressional District seat, which represents many parts of Northeast Texas.
“We were there to back the police. It had nothing to do with Louie Gohmert to start out with, but the Democratic guy who lost his phone (Gilbert campaign manager Ryan Miller) was starting trouble,” Garrett said.
Garrett said there were two fights during Sunday’s rallies. He watched the one with Miller and said no one who was there supporting Trump had anything to do with that, and said he tried to calm down an angry Trump supporter in the second altercation.
“The Democratic people, the antifa people, they are the people who threw some cuss words around and that stuff, but the Trump supporters, Gohmert supporters, Blue Lives Matter, that was not us,” Garrett said. “It was none of us.”
Gilbert was approved to hold a “Protest Portland Rally” on Sunday in the T.B. Butler Fountain Plaza in the downtown Tyler square from 2 to 3 p.m. However, a “Back the Blue Rally” was set up as a counter-protest from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.
A large number of Trump and Gohmert supporters out-numbered Gilbert’s supporters.
Gilbert said he supports police, but he wanted to speak out against federal agents taking people in rented vans during protests in Portland, Oregon.
“I told Gilbert before it started, ‘You are trying to get voters? Are you looking for vigilante justice? Cause that’s what it’s gong to come to? That’s not the society any of us want to come to.’ And he didn’t have anything to say,” Garrett said.
Garrett is seen on video and photos talking to some of Gilbert’s supporters.
In the photos, Garrett is wearing a pro-Trump hat, and he said when he saw the second fight start, he tried to stop a Trump supporter who is in a photo with his hand around another man’s neck, pinning the man against the monument.
“I tapped him on the shoulder and said ‘Don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t do it, man!’ Then his friends grabbed him. He was a strong man and he was angry. One punch, and he could’ve hit the guy’s head off the monument and that would’ve been it,” Garrett said. “I was not there for trouble. I was there to support Trump, Louie and the police. That’s why I wore a ‘Breathe Easy, Don’t Break the Law’ T-shirt with a blue line in it. I support the police, I go to the police department often and just pray for the police.”
However, when the man was yanked away from the monument from his friends and Miller was trying to find who had his phone, Garrett realized he was between two scuffles and knew what to do.
“I thought it was time to tip-toe away from there like a dog who dropped a hot load,” Garrett said. “That’s what went through my mind and that’s what I did shortly after that picture was taken. I got out of there, exit stage left.”
Garrett also pointed out no one with guns was involved with the altercations.
“It was not Louie supporters. There were lots of long guns, lots of pistols. Heck, even I had a pistol on me, and it did not come out,” Garrett said. “I was born and raised in Tyler, Texas. This is my home. This is not what Tyler is about.”
Gilbert’s campaign said he has raised $30,000 since Sunday for his campaign and picked up more volunteers.
On Monday, Gohmert, who announced earlier this week that he has COVID-19, said, “I have no firsthand knowledge of what went on, because I was not there, did not organize it, didn’t know about it until it was taking place.”