In early June 2020, social media users began sharing a quote attributed to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, accusing "authoritarian Democratic leaders" of failing to punish "looters" while wanting to arrest "law abiding citizens at church," with some users asking whether he really made the remark:
Cruz did in fact make the comment. It is posted to his official Twitter account:
Cruz was referring to what he viewed as disproportionately harsh punishment for church parishioners who wanted to attend religious services in person despite stay-at-home measures enacted in April and May 2020 to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus disease pandemic. He compared the measures to what he called lenient approaches to violent protests that occurred in late May 2020 in response to the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, an unarmed Black man.
Video of Floyd's May 25, 2020 death, in which former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck while Floyd pleaded that he couldn't breathe until he lost consciousness, sparked weeks of nationwide protests marked by widespread violence early on. Thousands of people were arrested nationwide amid resulting protests.