Lynn McCord, who serves on New Braunfels’ Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Awareness (IDEA) Council, says her heart “burned” on Monday as she watched graphic, expletive-laced bodycam footage of a white New Braunfels police officer tasing a black man he pulled over for a “dirty license plate.”
“Watching this video today was pretty hurtful,” she said.
The video of the January traffic stop in New Braunfels was livestreamed during a press conference hastily convened by city officials after mediation with New Braunfels resident Clarence Crawford, who was tased, failed.
City of New Braunfels formed IDEA earlier this year after unrest over George Floyd’s death at the hands of police officers swept the nation and a Black Lives Matter protest was scheduled downtown on June 2. The diversity council picked up speed in September after the New Braunfels Trump Train dragged a Black Lives Matter flag along one of its parade routes and someone from out of state erected a ‘Used-Mexicans’ billboard on I-35 near Creekside.
Mayor Rusty Brockman responded to concerns raised by these incidents and reached out to Bishop Michael Franklin, president of the New Braunfels MLK Association, after the Sept. 3 incident with the Trump Train. In a statement, Brockman defended constitutional rights of free speech and assembly and promised the city would not turn a blind eye to issues that made residents feel threatened or afraid.
But IDEA members did not know that city officials also were embroiled in another case of racial intimidation entirely of their own making — or, that the unexpected “retirement” of Police Chief Tom Wibert in October was actually tied to the way New Braunfels Police Department officer Kaleb Meyer mismanaged Crawford’s arrest.
At the press conference on Monday, City Manager Robert Camareno explained officials withheld information about the incident for 11 months at Crawford’s request.
“We actually did want to make the video public sooner, however out of respect for Mr. Crawford, he asked us not to do so,” he said. “Mediation concluded unsuccessfully recently, so we chose in the interest of transparency to show the video to our community and talk about the things that we are doing to address the issues.”
McCord said she can understand why the city did this. She works in the insurance business and understands the importance of following all legal guidance.
“For them to put this story out the way they did sends a loud message that we’re not standing for racism in this community,” said McCord, who works on IDEA’s Education and Awareness Committee. “I feel like this is a big step. Is the timing later than I would have liked? Yes. But is the timing also right where it needs to be? Yes. Because of the contentious election environment in this town.”
As bad as Monday’s video is, she said people of color in New Braunfels are worried about a something just as horrific, if not worse — the 300- to 500-vehicle ‘Trump Train’ that rolls around the city up to several times a week, honking horns, waving flags, screaming at minorities and creating traffic nuisances for several hours each evening.
The group, which also talks about fasting, prayer and revival, schedules weekly prayer meetings at Landa Park or on private property. Because there are three parade routes, New Braunfels residents can never be certain which roadways might be clogged by heavy traffic.
One Black woman told MyCanyonLake.com off-the-record that people of color know better than to hang around outside in New Braunfels atter dark on Thursday, when the Trump Train usually schedules a weekly foray.
This feels like intimidation to Blacks and Hispanics, McCord said.
Speaking in September, Bishop Michael Franklin, president of the New Braunfels MLK Association, warned city officials that the Trump Train’s displays and acts of racism threatened “the very fiber of our community’s peace and safety.”
New Braunfels needs to figure out how to make sure its citizens feel safe from the Trump Train, McCord said.
“It’s one thing to do a couple of gatherings during the election,” she said. “It’s something else to keep this going and target New Braunfels…it’s bringing an aura of violence to the city that I don’t care for. It feels like it’s a gang…a racist person is always a racist person. But the stuff they’re stirring up and the level of hatred they’re stirring up is beyond something that we’ve ever seen here. The Trump Train has run its course.”
McCord credits the city for earlier actions, like hiring diversity expert Richard Lewis, Ph.D, a sociology professor at University of Texas San Antonio, and speaking out publicly against racism.
But IDEA has ideas other about how to move forward. The 20-member group has met four times and at its last meeting tied actionable goals to objectives.
McCord said her job is helping to educate New Braunfels residents about diversity and equity.
“How do police and the community work together, what does education look like?” she asked. “I want to hear what the police department subcommittee reports back because now my ears are perking up on that subgroup and what they’re working on.”
New Braunfels police need more training, especially on how to understand culture differences or concerns that people of color share about police, she said.
Meanwhile, McCord said she’s grateful for body cams because they shed light on abusive behavior by police.
Since September, New Braunfels has done little publicly to enact any restrictions on the unruly Trump Train, although images posted to social media on Sunday show several flag-festooned Trump trucks parked at police station, their occupants complaining that officers did little after organizer Randi Ceh’s vehicle was struck by a paint ball.
On Nov. 5, organizers Steve Ceh and Jason Frank complained on a Facebook livestream that city officials treated them like criminals during a meeting scheduled right before Nov. 3. Because there was no quorum, details of that meeting were not made available to the public.