Austin City Council discussing weekend protests, APD response in special meeting

Talk 1370 Newsroom
June 04, 2020 - 8:30 am
Protests in downtown Austin

Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via USA TODAY NETWORK

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AUSTIN (Talk1730.com) -- The Austin City Council is discussing a week's worth of protests held downtown, as well as the Austin Police response, at a special meeting that began on Thursday afternoon and will resume at 9 a.m. Friday morning.

The agenda for the special called meeting calls for a "briefing on protests in the city, including protocol and practices employed."

Council members and Police Chief Brian Manley spent much of Thursday afternoon and evening listening to more than 300 citizens who had signed up to comment. Thursday's session adjourned just after 11 p.m., with proceedings set to resume Friday morning at 9 a.m.

Manley, in a media briefing Monday, detailed three incidents the department is investigating where individuals were injured by the department's bean bag rounds, including one case where a 20-year old ended up hospitalized in critical condition.

Despite these several unfortunate incidents, Manley on Monday commended the overall response of officers. "What we saw was others joined that groups for means outside of that peaceful protest, and that's when we saw many acts of violence carried out with objects being thrown at officers," Manley said.

Council Member Greg Casar, in a tweet on Monday, said "we have to change this system, and all people deserve to be safe during these demonstrations."

Austin Mayor Steve Adler called for community input during the Council discussion. "We can't have our police shooting into crowds of protesters. The right to protest and to disrupt cannot be fraught with fear of injury," Adler wrote on Facebook. "The safety of our police officers is also part of our responsibility. We do not have to choose between encouraging expression and keeping everyone in the community protected."

Members of the Austin Justice Coalition are calling on council members to defund the police department to the minimum amount possible. The group cites several programs that they say "perpetuate racial profiling and a culture of violence," including funding for new officers and a new cadet class, weapons used against protesters, the Fusion Center and other surveillance tools, Driver License readers, and the Austin ISD police force.

In a sign of the scrutiny that future APD funding decisions may face, council members were asked to approve a grant funding request to continue a long-standing auto theft prevention project with the state. The $430,685 grant provides the majority of funding for three detectives to focus on automobile thefts. The same request in 2019 was approved on a 10-0 vote; Thursday, council approved it on a 7-4 vote.

The virtual Council meeting can be watched on the city's cable channel ATXN, or online at www.austintexas.gov/page/watch-atxn-live.

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