A Houston-area Republican state representative trying to prank Texas Democrats was forced to leave the state Democratic convention Friday, but not before showing what appeared to be a sidearm.
State Rep. Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park, was removed along with a local political consultant and other activists giving Democrats fake yard signs reading, "This home is a gun-free safe space."
Cain, consultant Aaron Harris of North Richland Hills and two other men were asked to leave the Fort Worth Convention Center exhibit hall, but returned later in the Ninth Street foyer.
They were questioned and released about 5:20 p.m. by Fort Worth police.
Texas Democrats criticize the Trump administration for a zero-tolerance policy that led to the separation of children from parents seeking asylum but not crossing legally into the United States.
Party spokesman Adam Goodrum said the group had created a "bit of a disturbance" in the expo hall and was asked to leave but returned.
A delegate saw Cain brandish a weapon, Goodrum said.
A video at 4:30 p.m. by delegate Mirian Spencer of Fort Worth showed Cain lifting his shirt to show what appeared to be a holstered weapon.
The convention center is not legally designated as a gun-free zone.
Fort Worth police spokesman Bradley Perez wrote by email: "Some protesters were asked to move on and they complied." Officers at the scene did not mention a weapon, he wrote.
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Cain, 33, a lawyer and member of the Tea Party-affiliated Texas House Freedom Caucus, said they distributed the prank signs as "irony."
"Nobody should put this in front of their house," he said.
"It''s amazing how many people took one and thanked us. They said they would put it in front of their house. I think it's funny."
Cain and Harris said the group handed out 100 mock signs. They left the exhibit hall but returned thinking the foyer was a public place and a free-speech zone, Cain said.
In the video, a Democrat walking past in the foyer takes a sign from Cain. When a delegate asked, "When'd you go gun-free?" Cain lifted his shirttail to show a holster.
Cain, serving his first term in the Texas House, was ranked the most conservative lawmaker in calculations by Rice University political science professor Mark Jones.
In a "Texas Monthly" article that ranked seven Republicans among the "10 best" lawmakers in the Texas Capitol, Cain led the list of the "10 worst." The magazine described him as "uninformed and belligerent."
When students walked out of school to support stricter gun laws after the February shooting that killed 17 students and teachers in Parkland, Fla., Cain drafted legislation to withdraw state funding for the day from any school permitting a walkout.
He has written on Twitter that he opposes proposals that would tighten gun restrictions, particularly one that would require more parents to lock guns away from minors.
Harris, a former campaign manager for state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, said it was the first time he's been to a Democratic convention.
"To be honest, people here have been nice," he said.