Givens Park clean-up brings East Austin community together

An unlikely interaction between one Austin Police Department officer and a car club member led to an event bringing city leaders, law enforcement and the East Austin community together.

APD Officer Justin Berry said he was patrolling Givens Park when he saw groups of community members leaving. He said he saw Jonathan Allen and his car club ‘Cash full of hands’ beginning to enjoy themselves at the park but after seeing law enforcement they began to pack up and leave.

It was then officer Berry approached them and asked why they were leaving. Allen told Berry he didn’t want any trouble. It was then Berry said he started a conversation with Allen about preconceptions.

"If the members of the community are viewing you as an occupying force that's a problem there's a perception issue there and that just, that broke my heart," Officer Berry said.

Allen said in the past law enforcement and car clubs didn’t have positive interactions and wanted to let Officer Berry know the club was part of the community.

"Car clubs we get bad reps with the bad reps you know we are not just bad people,” Allen said. ” We really do care about our communities."

The conversation between the two then turned into plans to make the park a place comfortable for everyone. The two hosted a mustard seed event Sunday afternoon inviting city leaders, law enforcement and the East Austin community to help clean-up Givens park.

Gloves in hand, Interim Police Chief Brian Manley and Council woman Ora Houston picked up trash.

"We never take the time to sit down with people who may look different than we do and say what are your hopes and dreams what do you want for your children, what do you want for your community,” Houston said. “You would be surprised that everyone wants the same kinds of things."

The city also gave away 10 bikes to children in the community. Instead of immediately jumping on the bikes to play. The kids helped pick up a trash bag and continue to clean their park.