Following an all-day protest on Saturday, a peaceful rally and march were scheduled for Sunday afternoon at the Texas State capitol building. The event was organized in light of George Floyd’s murder, as well as the murder of Mike Ramos by the hands of Austin Police Department (APD). However, one of the original organizers decided to cancel the same morning of the event, citing concerns of certain protesters “capitalizing” on the moment to serve their own agendas and endangering Black people participating in the event.
In spite of the cancellation, what looked to be a few thousand protesters gathered around the capitol entrance at the originally scheduled time. A group of protesters took the lead and proceeded to guide us from the capitol building to the Austin City Hall building, chanting “Black Lives Matter” and “No justice, no peace.” While on Austin City Hall grounds, cops attempted to keep the crowd from marching to the APD. Some protesters were pepper-sprayed or shot with beanbag rounds.
Within the next hour or so, we climbed onto I-35 and effectively blocked traffic on the way to the APD headquarters. Sounds of cops shooting beanbag rounds echoed in the distance. A speaker from the helicopter hovering above the highway periodically warned us to clear the highway. As people consolidated around the APD building on the ground and on the highway across building, we were warned of tear gas being dropped to clear the highway.
When the gas dropped from the helicopter, protesters on the highway and around the APD building scattered. As I was running to safety, I noticed that some people running next to me were red-faced and coughing. People with water bottles sat down with protesters and rinsed off their faces once the air cleared. APD proceeded to claim that they deployed “smoke,” not tear gas.
Given the informal nature of the protest, the crowd split off between the Texas State capitol and the Austin Police Department after we regrouped. The protests continued into the evening and early morning with reports of APD using lethal force on protesters throughout.
I started off at the capitol, and there was another group already outside city hall. The protests at the capitol were extremely tame, a lot of chanting, etc. The second group marched from city hall to the capitol, and it was a pretty cool moment as people turned and cheered the throng of marchers making their way to the protest.
After some more chanting, we headed to I-35 and the APD HQ. For those unfamiliar with the geography of Austin, I-35 is the divider between the traditionally white and Black segments of Austin, with east side only recently being gentrified. Protesters blocked the interstate and were tear gassed. Not many people brawled with the cops. Some bottles flew, but mostly people just fled.
When protesters came down from the highway there was an uneasy tension (not a lot of chanting anymore), and people giving speeches in front of the headquarters. As I walked back to my car, I decided to see if anyone was still around the capitol. There people were gathered in circles and talking about how to resist all this. I didn’t stay long, but one person speaking said “Your job is the most racist place on earth,” and I thought that rang pretty true.