A trove of documents released this week by the Texas
Department of Public Safety seem to undermine its claims that protesters tried
to smuggle feces into the gallery of the Texas Senate during a historic abortion
debate July 12.
The documents contain officials' appeals for troopers with direct knowledge of the claims to come forward with proof of the claims, but none appears to have been successful.
The documents also appear to indicate that the state police agency conducted undercover and electronic surveillance of a pro-choice group but didn't keep similar tabs on the group's anti-abortion counterparts.
In addition, the documents appear to undermine a key rationale the agency has used for being unable to prove that its July 12 press release was truthful.
The agency did not immediately respond to questions about the 144 pages of documents it released Monday afternoon in response to questions and public-information requests from the El Paso Times and other news agencies.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who claims he saw "bags" of excrement at the Capitol on July 12, also did not respond to questions.
The controversy involves a Department of Public Safety news release issued late on the afternoon of July 12. It said the agency "received information individuals planned to use a variety of items or props to disrupt legislative proceedings at the Texas Capitol."
The atmosphere was tense that day because on June 25, an earlier special legislative session melted down amid a loud protest in the Senate chamber.
Dewhurst, a Republican who supported the abortion bill, had just made a controversial ruling than ended an 11-hour filibuster by state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, that was intended to kill it.
After the debacle, Dewhurst vowed to keep control of the chamber when the issue came back July 12.
That day, as protesters chanted outside the Senate chamber, the DPS news release claimed that troopers had discovered one jar of urine and 18 jars of feces among people waiting to enter the Senate chamber. Even though they were suspected of plotting to hurl excrement onto public officials, the people were allowed into the Senate gallery so long as they discarded the jars, the news release said.
Some lawmakers and members of the news media immediately were skeptical.
Davis and state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, said the claims were implausible and merited further investigation. Some critics said the news release was a ploy to make pro-choice activists look bad.
DPS Director Steven McCraw took umbrage at the questions.
"I am tired of reading that we made this stuff up," McCraw said in a July 14 email to his staff that was released Monday. "Let's get the photos we have to members of the media. Does anyone realistically believe we would fabricate evidence to support a political agenda? Amazing."
Evidence has been hard to come by.
Three hours after McCraw's request, DPS official Jose Ortiz replied that he had gathered only three photos. He explained that troopers weren't told to take pictures since the items were discarded and they were busy with hundreds of people lined up to get into the Senate gallery.
The photos include one of a small can of paint, three bricks found in the Capitol Extension and a fuzzy picture of a jar containing something dark that
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