Hernandez said it was important that he confront Cruz for the families suffering from the impact of gun violence.
“And it’s not just Uvalde — it’s El Paso, it’s Santa Fe, it’s Texans, the things that have happened here,” Hernandez said, recalling other mass shootings in the state.
“It’s easy to talk. It’s easy to tweet,” he said. “At some point, we have to confront them and ask them the questions they refuse to answer.”
This is not the first confrontation Cruz has been on the receiving end of this week. On Wednesday, the Texas senator called a reporter a “propagandist” after being asked why mass shootings are endemic to American life.
“Why is this just an American problem?” BuzzFeed News reporter Paige Skinner interjected as the Texas senator walked away. “Why is America the only country that faces this kind of mass shooting?”
“You can’t answer that, can you, sir?” Sky News reporter Mark Stone asked Cruz. “You can’t answer that.”
Cruz then confronted Stone, telling him, “Why is it that people come from all over the world to America? Because it’s the freest, most prosperous, safest country on Earth, and stop being a propagandist.”
Hernandez said he took notice when former Texas representative Beto O’Rourke confronted Texas Gov. Greg Abbott during a press conference Wednesday, telling the governor, “The time to stop the next shooting is now, and you are doing nothing.”
“Confront all hypocritical assholes like [O’Rourke] just did,” Hernandez tweeted Wednesday.
This is also not the first time Cruz has been confronted at a restaurant. In September 2018, during the fraught confirmation hearings for now–Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, protesters confronted Cruz inside Fiola, a high-end Italian restaurant in Washington, DC. The senator and his wife, Heidi Cruz, quickly left as demonstrators chanted, “We believe survivors!”
Hernandez, who was born in Mexico, came into the US undocumented at 8 months old and became naturalized in his teens. He avoided politics until 2016, he said, when immigrants from Mexico were being targeted and vilified. To get a “crash course” in something he’d actively resisted, he said, he unsuccessfully ran for Texas’s 9th Congressional District as an independent in 2018.
Cruz has received more money from gun rights groups than any other member of Congress since he was elected in 2012, according to government transparency group Open Secrets. He has an A+ rating from the NRA and frequently votes against measures aimed at hindering gun violence. He has accused Democrats and the media of politicizing the issue when discussions about gun laws come up after a mass shooting.
Gun violence is a uniquely American problem, one characterized by the American Public Health Association as a public health crisis. It is a leading cause of premature death in the country, responsible for more than 38,000 deaths annually. At least 17,550 people have died from gun violence so far this year, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive.
In another view of Friday night’s confrontation, taken from a different angle and uploaded in a TikTok, as Hernandez is escorted out, Cruz waves bye and sits back down at his table.
Hernandez said he doesn’t believe Cruz will learn anything from such encounters.
“But I’ll tell you this: If he thinks there are safe spaces where people aren’t going to confront you … I want you to know that’s not the case. Whether that’s Uptown Sushi, anywhere in the Galleria, anywhere in River Oaks, you’re going to be confronted. I think, deep down inside, he knows. … I think that’s what he’ll take away,” Hernandez said. “Sadly, I wish he took more away from it.”