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Judge: No Houston GOP Convention       07/10 06:34


   HOUSTON (AP) -- A state judge on Thursday declined to reverse Houston's 
decision to cancel the Texas Republican convention's in-person events because 
of the coronavirus pandemic.

   Judge Larry Weiman rejected the state GOP's request for a temporary 
restraining order, one day after Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said next 
week's gathering could not proceed at the downtown convention center. Turner, a 
Democrat, has denied any political motives in the cancellation and said it was 
a matter of public safety.

   After a contentious two-hour hearing, Weiman said he was concerned about 
Houston hospitals reporting they have exceeded their regular intensive-care 
capacity, as coronavirus cases and deaths have surged in the state. The arrival 
next week of as many as 6,000 delegates from across Texas could worsen the 
situation, he noted.

   Attorneys for state Republicans indicated they plan to file an appeal.

   The judge's decision Thursday came as the state reported more than 100 
deaths in a single day for the first time, making this the deadliest week of 
the pandemic in what has rapidly become one of America's virus hot zones. 
Houston in particular has become a hot spot, with major hospitals exceeding 
their base capacity due to an influx of COVID-19 patients.

   The Texas Medical Association withdrew its sponsorship of the state GOP 
convention and asked organizers to cancel in-person gatherings.

   But state Republican chair James Dickey insisted that organizers can hold 
the event safely. Before Turner canceled the convention, Dickey said the party 
had planned to institute daily temperature scans, provide masks, and install 
hand sanitizer stations.

   The group's lawsuit filed earlier Thursday accused Turner of discriminating 
against the convention due to an "ideological viewpoint." A second lawsuit 
filed by a group of Republicans accused Turner of bowing to "COVID-19 hysteria."

   Both lawsuits accuse Turner of imposing tougher standards on the convention 
than he did on a June 2 protest following the death of George Floyd, a Houston 
native. Tens of thousands of people, including Turner, attended the protest.

   The state party's lawsuit included photos of packed crowds at the protest. 
One of the Republicans who filed the second lawsuit was Steve Hotze, a 
conservative power broker who, according to The Texas Tribune, left Gov. Greg 
Abbott's chief of staff a voicemail after the protest calling on the governor 
to have National Guard ready to "shoot to kill."

   "I want to make sure that he has National Guard down here and they have the 
order to shoot to kill if any of these ... people start rioting like they have 
in Dallas, start tearing down businesses. ... That's the only way you restore 
order. Kill 'em. Thank you," Hotze said.

   Speaking Wednesday, Turner said he directed city lawyers to terminate the 
contract because he believed the event could not be held safely.

   "No one wanted to step in and be the heavy and to say no, and then run the 
risk of being accused of being political," Turner said. "But if after all of 
that, you still refuse to recognize the public health danger to everyone 
involved, then I am still the mayor."

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