AUSTIN, Texas - 23 people were arrested following demonstrations in Austin over the weekend.
Four people were arrested in front of Garrett Foster's memorial, on 4th and Congress Saturday night. Foster, a Black Lives Matter protestor was shot and killed in the area in late July. Three people were charged with obstructing a highway or other passageway. One person faced an additional charge of riot participation, and another faced an additional charge of unlawfully carrying a weapon. One protestor faced a single traffic offense charge.
18 people were arrested near Austin Police headquarters Sunday, though police are unsure if two of the people arrested were protesting.
Just before 4 p.m. the pro-police rally “Silent No More - We Back Our Protectors,” kicked off at police headquarters. The event, organized by motorcycle group Wind Therapy Freedom Riders, was one of eleven held throughout the weekend at various police stations and one sheriff’s office in Central Texas. Austin was the group's final stop.
The counter-protest “Blue Lives DON’T Matter,” set up at headquarters at 2 p.m. Before the pro-police rally began, protestors argued with members of the Boogaloo Boys.
Austin Police used an L-RAD to communicate with the crowd, telling them to stay out of the street, and not to block the crosswalk.
Several people were arrested before the pro-police rally began, and many more were taken into custody after it started -- as the two groups argued on a small strip of sidewalk in front of police headquarters.
“You know one warning you’re out kind of thing. Very low tolerance, zero tolerance.” said “Blue Lives DON’T Matter” protestor, Max.
Retired Austin Police Sgt. Wayne Vincent believes that “low tolerance” is a strategy.
“The department seems to be going back to the basic crowd control methods, which is make sure that you get agitators -- people that are going to be violating the law. You take action immediately,” he said.
Vincent says the department is being proactive.
“If you’ve got two opposing groups with emotions flaring weapons present, the police officers are really in a no-win situation and they’ve got to proceed with caution.”
Max, who was pepper-sprayed Saturday, said “I think [police] used extreme force. I think they showed the most force they have in a while and I don’t think it’s a coincidence they were doing it right in front of their supporters.”
As protestors were taken into custody, many participating in the pro-police rally, clapped and cheered on Austin Police.
“Even though that’s disturbing to see, the end result if you don’t take control is going to be much more disturbing,” said Vincent, addressing use of force.
Six protestors were arrested for city ordinance violations. Seven were charged with interference with public duties -- two of them faced additional resisting arrest, search or transportation charges. Two people were charged with assault by contact. One person was charged with evading arrest or detention. One person was charged with unlawfully carrying a weapon. One person was charged with resisting arrest, search, or transport. Max says she believes, most, if not all of the people arrested, were with “Blue Lives DON’T Matter.”
Max was among roughly a dozen protestors who spent Monday outside the Travis County Jail waiting for friends to be released. With water bottles and snacks set up on a bench, the protestors cheered on members of their group as they walked out of the jail. Upon release, one woman, made a shirt parodying her charge, it read “jaywalker.”