Austin City Council members ask police to detail response to possible Election Day protests

Ahead of Election Day, Nov. 3, four Austin City Council members have asked Austin Police Chief Brian Manley for more information on the police department's plans to respond to possible protests. (John Cox/Community Impact Newspaper)
Ahead of Election Day, Nov. 3, four Austin City Council members have asked Austin Police Chief Brian Manley for more information on the police department's plans to respond to possible protests. (John Cox/Community Impact Newspaper)

Ahead of Election Day, Nov. 3, four Austin City Council members have asked Austin Police Chief Brian Manley for more information on the police department's plans to respond to possible protests. (John Cox/Community Impact Newspaper)

The four members of Austin City Council who sit on the city’s public safety committee said they expect “activity involving free speech and free assembly” around the presidential election, and they have asked Austin Police Chief Brian Manley to inform the community about what plans are in place ahead of Nov. 3.

“As we’re sure you agree, what happened at previous Austin protests this year represented a failure to keep people safe,” wrote Council Members Delia Garza, Jimmy Flannigan, Greg Casar and Natasha Harper-Madison. “We request updates on how, under your leadership, APD will maintain an environment where free speech and assembly are not only tolerated, but welcomed, without injury either to the public or our own public servants.”

The May 25 death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police officers sparked protests against police brutality and systemic racism in cities around the country, including Austin.

Those protests, at times, turned violent. In Austin, 16-year-old Brad Levi Ayala and 20-year-old Justin Howell were critically injured after APD officers shot them with “less-lethal” bean-bag bullets. Council moved in June to take a series of actions intended to change how police respond to protests, banning those “impact munitions” along with chokeholds and tear gas.

APD is still investigating nine incidents from the weekend of May 30-31, and on Oct. 29, it placed two additional officers who were involved in the protests on administrative duty: Jeffrey Teng, who has been with APD for four years, and Eric Heim, who has five and a half years on the force. APD previously put five officers on administrative duty as investigations into their role in the protests continue, which brings the total to seven.


"People in Austin should be able to demonstrate peacefully, without fear that they will be hurt by anyone,” the council members wrote in the letter. “We all recognize the important social justice movement we are in right now and want to ensure the safety of everyone, both residents and officers, is a priority for you.”

Manley, according to APD, is out of the office and will respond when he returns next week.

At a press conference Oct. 13, the first day of early voting in Travis County, APD Assistant Chief Joe Chacon said police are not stationed at any polling locations, but they are prepared to respond when called upon by election judges.

Chacon said police have no specific information about unrest or violence, but the department will be ready to respond. During the week of the election, Chacon added that the department is on “tactical alert,” which he said is common during large events, such as music festivals, with all officers in uniform no matter where they work.

“We certainly respect people’s right to peacefully assemble and to be able to voice their opinions. They just have to do it within the law,” Chacon said at the press conference.
By Jack Flagler
Jack is the editor of Community Impact Newspaper's Central Austin and Southwest Austin editions. He began his career as a sports reporter in Massachusetts and North Carolina before moving to Austin in 2018. He grew up in Maine and graduated from Boston University, but prefers tacos al pastor to lobster rolls. You can get in touch at jflagler@communityimpact.com


MOST RECENT

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee recommended Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine for emergency authorization use Feb. 26. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine recommended for emergency authorization use by FDA

This is the third COVID-19 vaccine that has been approved for emergency authorization use after those produced by pharmaceutical company Pfizer and biotechnology company Moderna.

Josh Frank, owner of Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-in for more than a decade, holds up a Blue Starlite-branded mask. (Photo by Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
Long-time Austin theater Blue-Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In takes on new life in pandemic

Drive-in theater Blue Starlite found itself in a unique position in 2020: After more than 10 years as a small business “just getting by,” demand for drive-in movies exploded, owner Josh Frank said.

The University of Texas Radio-Television-Film department will be offering virtual camps this summer. (Courtesy The University of Texas)
2021 Central Austin summer camp guide: 44 options including virtual and in-person offerings

Our list of camps happening in Austin this summer includes options focusing on academics, arts, sports and language.

Samsung's proposed $17 billion chip-making plant would dwarf other recent megaprojects that sought tax incentives in the region.
Samsung’s request to pay no property tax on $17 billion plant tests Austin’s incentive policy

Samsung is asking for 100% property tax reimbursement over 25 years, which would mark the most aggressive corporate tax break in Austin history.

A new Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine could help expand vaccination availability in Travis County, according to local health officials. (Courtesy Pexels)
Johnson & Johnson vaccine could mean additional supply, easier distribution rollout in Travis County

If approved, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be a valuable weapon against the ongoing pandemic, according to local health officials.

Austin ISD students will begin the 2021-22 school year Tuesday, Aug. 17. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Take a look at Austin ISD’s newly approved calendar for the 2021-22 school year

Austin ISD trustees have approved the academic calendar for the upcoming 2021-22 school year.

Snow covers I-45 in Houston during a winter storm that hit Texas the night of Feb. 14. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Legislators probe energy officials over power failures, lack of preparation heading into winter storm

The Texas Legislature held hearings Feb. 25 with energy companies including Oncor Electric Delivery and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in response to last week’s historic winter storm, which left millions of Texans without electricity for days.

Austin ISD students are scheduled to return to classrooms March 1 for the first time since Winter Storm Uri. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Winter storm damage could prevent 10 Austin ISD campuses from reopening next week

Austin ISD students are scheduled to return to classrooms March 1 for the first time since Winter Storm Uri.

A tree's branches fell on a car in North Austin in the midst of Winter Storm Uri in February. With downed tree limbs and burst water lines causing property damage across Austin, the city has directed additional funds into programs to help some homeowners with emergency home repairs. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Still in crisis mode, Austin City Council initiates recovery following winter storm

With 200 to 400 apartment and condo complexes in Austin still without water, City Council is aiming to direct aid and relieve some of the financial burden felt by residents following the devastating winter storms.

Photo of a knife cutting through brisket
La Barbecue heads to new home on East Cesar Chavez Street

The popular barbecue joint will move to its new location in May.

Jo's Coffee opened a North Austin location in January. (Courtesy Chad Wadsworth)
Jo's Coffee opens in Central Austin; new restaurant coming to Georgetown Square and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.