AUSTIN, Texas - It’s been one year since protesters began taking to the streets across the country demanding change, including here in Austin, with many rallies, marches and meet-ups taking place even months after George Floyd‘s death.
While most of these events were peaceful, in some cases situations escalated, resulting in property damage and people getting injured. These protests were aimed at addressing police brutality and for Austin a demand for change in their police department.
One year later, advocates who took to the streets are hoping their words echoed months ago still resonate.
"I think there’s room for us to actually grow but I don’t think we’ve done that yet," said Austin Justice Coalition executive director Chaz Moore. "Everybody cared last year, literally everybody. People in every state somewhere cared about police brutality and wanted change in the police department but now people are more concerned about getting their vaccines and getting back to normal."
Moore feels the passion from people last year is pretty much gone as the focus shifts to different topics like the homeless or vaccines.
During the protests, changes were made to the police department after protesters got injured. In the span of two days, Dell Seton treated 19 protesters with severe injuries, prompting the city to bar police from using chokeholds, teargas, and ammunition against protesters. The Austin City Council also agreed to reallocate more than $150 million from the police budget.
Moore feels there is still work to be done when it comes to the issues they were fighting for last year and is optimistic those who took to the streets continue to be involved instead of moving on to the next issue.
"We have to fight on a daily basis to make sure that we have an equitable world for all of us. There is so much more work that needs to be done and we need all of you to keep the Austin that we want and the weirdness that we love," said Moore.
At the state Capitol in response to the protests last year, House Bill 9, which was recently passed and is headed towards Gov. Greg Abbott's desk, would make it a felony for someone to knowingly block an emergency vehicle and hospital entrances. During the protests, some roadways were blocked like I-35 as people formed barricades preventing cars from traveling.
Another bill passed this week and headed to the governor would prevent law enforcement from using chokeholds.
There are still many other bills inspired by George Floyd which are still in the legislature and have till Monday to be passed.