Concerns over violence from outside groups force organizers to cancel ‘Justice for them All’ protest at Texas Capitol; demonstrations persist downtown

Demonstrators gathered in front of the Texas Capitol on Sunday, May 31, to protest police brutality. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Demonstrators gathered in front of the Texas Capitol on Sunday, May 31, to protest police brutality. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

Demonstrators gathered in front of the Texas Capitol on Sunday, May 31, to protest police brutality. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

Following a day of chaotic protests in downtown Austin where demonstrators clashed with police on I-35 and in front of the Austin Police Department’s headquarters, some even looting businesses through the evening, organizers canceled a peaceful protest, May 31, over concerns of continued violence.

Demonstrations against police brutality were seen across the nation over the weekend, spurred by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minneapolis who died in the hands of city police after officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly 9 minutes while Floyd was handcuffed and face down on the street. Many protests in major cities, such as Austin, turned violent.

In Austin, protesters also grieved the recent death of resident Michael Ramos, an unarmed black man who was shot and killed by Austin Police in April. The Ramos case, which will be reviewed by a grand jury, ignited social justice groups across the city to call for the termination of Austin Police Chief Brian Manley. The killing of Ramos added another line to a long list of grievances against the police department in recent months. Others include a department culture in which racism, sexism and homophobia persist, according to a third-party investigator, and a training academy that former cadets say emphasizes a warrior mentality, as opposed to a guardian mentality.

Chas Moore, executive director of the Austin Justice Coalition, called off the peaceful demonstration his group helped organize for Sunday, May 31. The event aimed to bring the city’s black community and black leaders together in front of the Texas Capitol to demand change. In a roughly 15-minute explanation, streamed on Facebook, Moore expressed concern that the event would be co-opted by outside groups who want only to incite violence and anarchy.

“Over the past two-to-three days, it has been brought to our attention that a lot of white people and a lot of non-black people ... have co-opted and, in a way, colonized, like they do everything else, this particular moment," Moore said. "They have used black pain and black outrage to just completely become anarchists in this moment. Here in Austin, if you look at what happened yesterday, it was predominantly white people doing what they want to do. There is no way, with good mind and a good conscience, that we can have this event today because there is no way possible for us to ensure the safety of black folk."


Videos from the protests in Austin on Saturday, May 30, showed people looting stores, setting plants and cars ablaze and throwing rocks at police.

“Today was going to be the day where a lot of black ministers, black leaders, black community members were going to come out and we wanted to have that space in Austin where black people were going to be able to voice their concerns, their agendas, their wants,” Moore said.

Although organizers called off the official protest, demonstrations still took place downtown in front of the Capitol. Moore still attended and addressed the crowd before some began marching down Congress Avenue toward City Hall and west on Second Street.

Following a weekend of protests, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on May 31 declared a statewide state of disaster, which gives Abbott the ability to “designate federal agents to serve as Texas Peace Officers,” according to a release sent by Abbott’s office.

“Every Texan and every American has the right to protest and I encourage all Texans to exercise their First Amendment rights,” Abbott said in a statement. “However, violence against others and the destruction of property is unacceptable and counterproductive. As protests have turned violent in various areas across the state, it is crucial that we maintain order, uphold public safety, and protect against property damage or loss.”

Manley said the department would let protesters voice their frustrations but said officers would take action if chaos ensued.

"Our officers are working to keep the community safe with compassion, professionalism and respect, as the demonstration continues downtown," Manley tweeted May 30. "We appreciate peaceful protest and will continue providing a safe space for the community to express emotions."

On May 29, District 1 Austin City Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison contrasted the “heavy handed” approach by law enforcement against the protests with the “universally placid response to armed, largely white activists who swarmed state capitols across the country earlier this month to stand in opposition to restrictions designed to keep our communities safe from the coronavirus.”

“For those who weren’t convinced already, the year 2020 has laid bare the need for deep and lasting changes to our social structures and institutions,” Harper-Madison wrote in a newsletter addressing her District 1 constituents. “Now is the time, for the sake of true equity, for the sake of true justice, and for the sake of the true American promise, to stop tolerating intolerance and to stop ignoring the plight of our neighbors and of ourselves.”
By Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following two years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Su


MOST RECENT

There have been more than 10,000 total coronavirus cases in Travis County as of July 1. (Community Impact Staff)
Travis County adds 597 new coronavirus cases July 1

There have been more than 10,000 total coronavirus cases in Travis County as of July 1.

Money stock art
Comptroller: Texas June sales tax revenue totaled $2.7 billion, down 6.5% from a year ago

The Texas comptroller's office has released June sales tax revenue figures.

Dell Seton Medical Center is located at 1500 Red River St. in Austin. (John Cox/Community Impact Newspaper)
MAP: Hospitals in the city of Austin

Community Impact Newspaper's annual Health Care Edition includes a resource for readers with information on the hospitals located within the city of Austin.

The report comes as Texas, like states across the country, puzzles through decisions on what the upcoming academic year will look like for students and staff. (Courtesy Pixabay)
Texas Education Agency: 1 in 10 students have disengaged during the pandemic

More than 600,000 Texas public school students didn't complete assignments or respond to outreach during the coronavirus pandemic.

Organizers of the Austin City Limits Music Festival announced July 1 the 2020 event will not take place. (Courtesy Charles Reagan Hackleman)
Austin City Limits Music Festival canceled for 2020

The annual festival brought more than 75,000 fans per day across two weekends last year and had a $291 million impact on the local economy.

Capital Metro announced July 1 that an employee has died after testing positive for COVID-19. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Capital Metro employee dies after testing positive for COVID-19

The employee of the public transportation agency tested positive for the virus June 18.

Austin City Hall was one of several downtown buildings to be vandalized during May's protests. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Pressure builds as Austin City Council members question city manager’s ability to bring transformational police reform

Several City Council members said without transformational changes to policing, Austin might need a new city manager.

While there are many unknowns regarding public education operations next year, one thing is for certain: Students will be required to take the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR test. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Students to be required to take STAAR test in 2020-21 school year

While there are many unknowns regarding public education operations next year, one thing is for certain: Students will be required to take the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR test.

There were 558 new coronavirus cases in Travis County on June 30. (Community Impact staff)
Travis County has seen 6,265 new coronavirus cases this month after June 30 update

There were 558 new coronavirus cases in Travis County on June 30.

A photo of a silver Cybertruck zooming through the desert
Travis County continues Tesla deliberations with no date set for vote on economic incentives

Travis County commissioners continue to gather public input and hold closed-session discussions regarding a possible local factory for the electric carmaker.

H-E-B officials confirmed via email June 30 that all stores will require shoppers and employees to wear masks beginning July 1. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
H-E-B to require all shoppers to wear masks amid coronavirus

H-E-B officials confirmed via email June 30 that all stores will require shoppers and employees to wear masks beginning July 1.

Texans receiving unemployment benefits will have a little extra time before they have to prove they are actively looking for work to continue receiving state assistance. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Work search requirement paused for Texans on unemployment benefits

Texans receiving unemployment benefits will have a little extra time before they have to prove they are actively looking for work to continue receiving state assistance.