AUSTIN, Texas - Hundreds of Austin Police officers and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers clashed with demonstrators downtown Saturday night, making several arrests.
There were two major demonstrations planned, the “March to Amplify Black Voices,” and “Protest Enemies of the People.”
The March to Amplify Black Voices started at the UT Austin tower at 7:30 p.m. and ended at Austin City Council Member Kathy Tovo’s house. The protestors are calling on the council to “defund” Austin police. The march appears to have gone off largely without incident.
Organizers turned away those who showed up with visible weapons. “This is an unarmed protest so if a right-winger drives in, they can’t blame it on some people having guns.” said organizer Robert Foster.
At 7 p.m. the “Protest Enemies of the People,” began at Garrett Fosters memorial on 4th and Congress. The protest took place exactly a week after Foster, a Black Lives Matter protestor was shot and killed while marching in the area.
“I think that Garrett Foster, the one that was murdered out here a week ago tonight was a brave soldier who was fighting for people's rights.” said a demonstrator, who did not feel comfortable sharing his name.
Foster was marching down Congress, with other protestors, including his fiancee last Saturday when a car driven by Fort Hood Sgt. Daniel Perry turned onto the road. Perry’s lawyer, Clint Broden says he is a rideshare driver. Perry told police protesters hit his car. He said Foster was carrying a rifle and signaled for him to roll down his window. Perry complied, saying he initially believed Foster to be law enforcement. He claims he quickly realized Foster was not law enforcement when he pointed his rifle at him. Perry pulled out a handgun and shot Foster several times. Another protestor witnessed the shooting and fired several shots at Perry as he drove away using a handgun. Perry, unharmed, drove a few blocks away from the scene and called police.
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“If somebody is being honest with themselves and they saw somebody raising an AK-47 in their direction and that person had the ability to protect themselves, there’s not one person being honest with themselves that wouldn’t have done the same exact thing,” said Broden.
The following Saturday, neither Perry nor the protestor that fired at him had been arrested.
“I think it’s disgusting that [Foster] was murdered by some fascist creep that the cops just let away.” the demonstrator told FOX 7 Austin.
The “Protest Enemies of the People” started out small, with approximately 20 participants. Dozens of Austin Police officers staged one block away, in a parking lot on 3rd and Congress.
Officers drove past the protest communicating with participants via a PA system. “You will all go to jail if you keep blocking the crosswalk and sidewalk, do you understand?” they said. In court documents, officers wrote that this warning was given “approximately three times.”
After the warnings were given, bike officers approached the crowd, and things immediately turned violent.
“[Officers] just came up and started pushing, forcing, hitting, pepper spraying people, rounding them with the bikes and using their bikes to force everybody's bodies back,” said the demonstrator, adding “It was very coordinated and very scary.”
Several protestors were arrested during the clash. Court documents made public Sunday afternoon indicate at least three young women are facing charges for “obstructing a passage” -- a sidewalk or crosswalk.
“This is what fascism looks like,” the demonstrator said.
A number of armed groups including the “Boogaloo Boys,” and “Texas Security Force 3%” gathered around the demonstration.
“It was all over social media that ANTIFA was coming here to disrupt the BLM march that's why we’re here,” said a leader of the security force, who chose to remain nameless -- referencing the “March to Amplify Black Voices” that occurred without incident.
Later in the evening, the police departments mounted patrol and several buses full of DPS troopers were brought to 4th and Congress. There were enough troopers to fill the entire block. Several more protestors were arrested near the memorial. It is unclear why they were arrested.
Court documents available Sunday, confirm at least three people were arrested for “obstructing a highway or other passage” while escorting protestors with their cars.