AUSTIN, Texas - Upgraded charges against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and new charges filed against the three other officers involved in the death of George Floyd did not put an end to protests in downtown Austin.
For six nights, hundreds of protestors have gathered in front of Austin Police Headquarters to demand change in the way officers interact with those in the black community.
“This honestly truly hurts as a people. It hurts that we don’t get the respect. It hurts that we don’t get included, even in just being equal, and that’s the tip of the iceberg and that’s what this protest is all about,” said former Longhorn football player Caleb Bluiett who joined protestors Tuesday and Wednesday.
Protestors, including Bluiett, said the dialogue with Austin police over the past three days is a step in the right direction, but it’s long overdue.
“I talked to an officer yesterday and he’s all for reform, he said he’s working on it hard on the inside. He’s trying to get officers to back behind him. So, one thing I would say is, for the officers of Austin Police Department and the world, is to get behind the good officers and support them, and support the community because we need y’all,” Bluiett said.
The demonstrations in Austin have remained peaceful since Monday. Protestors said they want to keep it that way, which is why they are working together to remove anyone who gets out of line.
“We don’t want to use force. It’s never a first option. We just want to keep things as peaceful as possible,” said Peter Jinkens, who joined the protest Wednesday.
There was a brief scare Tuesday night when a driver in a pickup truck drove erratically outside the police headquarters building while a protest was taking place there.
The driver, who police identified as 33-year-old Juan Ruiz, came just feet away from hitting two protestors.
“He jumped two curbs, probably going about 60 mph, and we were not about to get run over so we ran out of the way. He was yelling profanities out of the car,” said a protestor who only wanted to be identified as Eli.
Austin police responded quickly, stopping the driver, and moving protestors away from the threat.
“The police were very kind and accommodating, and got us over and hid us in front of the police station and made a wall and investigated the incident and it was over in as quick as two minutes,” Eli said.
Ruiz was arrested and charged with reckless driving and driving while intoxicated. Police said his blood-alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit.
On Thursday, following the scheduled city council meeting, the council will hold the first emergency hearing to discuss tactics officers used in response to more volatile protests over the weekend.
On Wednesday, the Austin Police Association sent an invitation to the mayor, city council, the Public Safety Commission, and the Office of Police Oversight offering to let them stand behind officers during Thursday’s “Tell Us His Name Now! Protest the Austin Pig Department!” protest, hosted by the Mike Ramos Brigade, so they can experience what officers are dealing with. That demonstration is supposed to start at 6 p.m.