On Friday, the Texas Senate debated and voted on House Bill 2, a hotly contested bill that increased abortion restrictions in the state. Prior to the second reading of the bill, Texas Department of Public Safety officers started urging members of the crowd who supported the bill to either vacate the building or retreat to a secure location for safety reasons. I went into hiding with some of my fellow interns from National Right to Life and Texas Right to Life, and thankfully nothing happened during the two hours we were locked in an office. The bill was passed with 19-11 vote, and will go to Gov. Rick Perry's desk.
As the crowd started to get increasingly rowdy, a kind member of the Texas DPS looked at my friends and I and simply said, “It’s time for you to go back there,” and pointed at the room that was basically the Texas Right to Life batcave. (Only the DPS knew we were in there — nobody else was allowed to go to that area.) Regardless of political affiliation, being told to go into hiding by a member of the state police is pretty terrifying. The scene at the Capitol was very loud, and it was a very tense atmosphere.
I updated my Facebook status to let everyone know that although I was still at the capitol building, I was in a safe and secure location and there was no need to worry. Two of my guy friends, both of whom work in journalism, texted me saying that I should go back into the rotunda and get video of the protesters. That was definitely not going to happen.
Lockdowns can be boring when you don't have a laptop on you to watch the actual debate in the senate. Candy Crush, however, is very addictive and I'm still stuck on level 165.
While I may not agree with their cause, I'll give credit to the orange-clad crowd: their chants got stuck in your head, and the vocal endurance was impressive. I'm sitting on a bus headed back to Washington, D.C., as I write this and I can still hear their voices echoing in my head.
Friday night truly was “democracy in action,” to steal a line from my political theory professor. There was the actual legislative process occurring in the senate chambers, the public assembling to voice their views on the bill, and the media reporting on the goings-on all present in one building.
Friday’s vote proved that elections do indeed matter — the bill would not have passed if pro-life candidates were not elected to the Texas Senate in the first place, and there would have been no need for my friends had I to be locked down in the capitol. I saw several signs in the crowd urging people to register and vote in 2014 — it will be interesting to see if this actually has an effect.