UPDATED: Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell, commissioners speak on George Floyd, Austin protests

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

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

Correction: Commissioner Terry Cook said change was needed.

Updated June 3 at 10:55 a.m.

Just north of the capital city, Williamson County remained quiet as protests ignited in downtown Austin over the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Mike Ramos in Austin.

Over the weekend, demonstrators clashed with police on I-35 and in front of the Austin Police Department headquarters just west of the highway, which led to car burnings, police deployment of tear gas, looting and protesters taking over I-35 to the point that it was shut down.

Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell, Commissioner Russ Boles and Commissioner Terry Cook spoke on the issue.

“I think like everyone else, I was horrified [by Floyd’s] death. He was murdered, and people should be held accountable for that,” Gravell said. “I have no problem with peaceful protest because I think that's the First Amendment right, ... [but] when we start tearing people's property and possessions and when the peaceful protest turns to anarchy and chaos, then I think it's taken a wrong path.”

Gravell noted even though he does not condone burning or destruction of property, he does believe the country has some serious systemic racial issues. He also acknowledged the anger people feel, even deeming it appropriate due to what is happening to Americans of color.

“I just think we have to be mindful that life's valuable and important, but when the protesting begins to destroy things, then it's not helpful,” Gravell said.

Cook said both peaceful dialogue and change are needed.

"This violent, emotional response of the few can’t be tempered with words. However, the indiscriminate violent response of law enforcement in some cases to all is also out of line. What do we as a nation need to do? This certainly isn’t our first foray into this level of unrest. The pandemic has everyone on edge with the unknowing of the future. Sudden unemployment or incredible drop in income for many further drives uneasiness," Cook said in an email.

She added she is at a loss for words at senseless killings and property destruction.

"How long will it take for we humans to get past skin color? We are all in this together, and we’d better get together," she said.

During a June 2 Commissioners Court meeting, Boles made a brief statement.

"I see what is happening in the community," Boles said. "I feel it; I see it. It's on my heart."

Commissioner Cynthia Long said she too recognized what happened to Floyd as wrong but that society cannot accept or
tolerate the violence, looting, vandalizing and stealing by those attempting to destroy, disrupt and distract.

"What happened to George Floyd was horrific and wrong on every level. Much needs to be said but more importantly more needs to be done so that people of every race and every color are treated equally in our nation. Our first amendment guarantees every American the right to freely express themselves and many have been peacefully doing so this last week. Yet what we have seen are violent, destructive people co-opt what was an appropriate expression of righteous indignation and anger," Long said in an email.

Commissioners Valerie Covey had yet to comment at time of publication.
By Ali Linan
Ali Linan began covering Georgetown for Community Impact Newspaper in 2018. Her reporting focuses on education and Williamson County. Ali hails from El Paso and graduated from Syracuse University in 2017.


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