Austin protesters violated city rules by blocking off streets

With emotions running high after the presidential election, protesters took to the streets of Austin twice this week to voice their concerns, but did their actions break any laws or city ordinances? According to the City of Austin’s website, the answer is yes.

Hundreds of protesters marched up and down Congress Avenue, Brazos Street and several other downtown streets protesting President-Elect Donald Trump and police blocked off roads all over town as they did so.

“You have a hard-fought election like this, there are people with great disappointment and there are people that are scared,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler.

Wednesday, during their march protesters shut down Congress Avenue during rush hour.

How come protesters were allowed to block downtown Austin streets on Wednesday?

The City of Austin’s website says under protest rules that "you cannot get into the street for any reason."

“There are certain limits the government can place. They are called time, place and manner restrictions. Particularly, where a protest might impede traffic,” said Morris.

While First Amendment protests do not require a city permit, if protesters are planning to block a street, a permit must be requested 10 days prior to the event.

According to the Austin Police Department these protesters did not have one.
“It impeded traffic. It was during rush hour, but, yeah, I think it was probably the officers exercising their discretion. Given the emotions after a year of back and forth election talk, they just probably said, ‘We're just going to let it go,’” Morris said. 

APD said whether or not they require protesters to move off the street is up to the discretion of the supervision on scene.

“They can move it to a sidewalk, some other place, an alternative area where it's not going to cause a significant public safety concern or impede traffic,” said Morris. 

Police said if anymore protests pop up, officers are prepared to monitor them.

Wednesday other laws were broken as well when protesters spray-painted sidewalks along their route.

“Protesters can't engage in what's called ‘civil disobedience.’ They can't vandalize property, they can't trespass, they can't assault people,” Morris said. 

FOX 7 contacted Austin Mayor Steve Adler to find out his take on protests this week.

Jason Stanford, Adler’s communications director sent us this statement: "The Mayor is happy that the protesters in Austin are peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights and is grateful to Chief Acevedo for making sure that they all stay safe."

One thing that cannot be restricted is the words used on protester’s signs. Even vulgar or profane language is protected by the First Amendment as long as it does not advocate imminent violence.