Austin was one of many cities across the country this past weekend flooded with large peaceful protests intermixed with violent conflict between protesters and police, and even rioting.
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were tense and filled with turmoil. One protester was hit in the head with a beanbag round and struck their head falling down. They are currently in critical condition.
But Monday night, relations between police and protester mended some. Officers with the Austin Police Department (APD) stepped into the crowd to converse with the crowd and some exchanged hugs. The crowd appreciated the good-faith gesture and returned it by turning over an agitator among their ranks to the police.
A crowd again gathered on Tuesday for a protest and this time were met with an even sweeter gesture than hugs: Tiff’s Treats cookies.
This olive branch was meant to facilitate more conversation between police and citizens, and the 500 cookies were donated by Tiff and her husband Leon, themselves — who were also in attendance at the protest.
Originally, a group of a few hundred protesters had congregated in front of the headquarters on 8th Street. After APD began handing out the cookies, a large portion of the crowd rejected the offering and marched toward the State Capitol.
But a still large contingent stayed, and engaged in discussions with officers on issues such as the death of George Floyd, police procedures, and the conflicts over the weekend.
The conversations were often emotional and sometimes heated. But the crowd was peaceful and each side made an effort to listen to the other.
In one such example, a protester approached an officer about an incident that occurred at one of the protests over the weekend. The officer listened to her, responded to her questions, and then offered to file a complaint for her.
More typical conversations about contemporary topics were frequent during the few hours of the engagement, including about the shooting from April involving an APD officer who killed civilian Mike Ramos — which is currently under investigation by the department and the district attorney.
Some protesters even cleaned off graffiti on the side of the building from earlier. They told The Texan, “These just serve as a reminder of the division. This isn’t what the movement is about.”
The crowd numbers ebbed and flowed throughout the evening but the discussions continued.
However, the conversations were briefly interrupted as a truck turned down 8th Street, underneath the I35 bridge and past the police barricades, and accelerated toward the protest.
There were just two trucks that came down the street, one in a very threatening manner. @Austin_Police acted quickly getting protesters out of the way and are now shielding is on the HQ platform. #AustinProtests pic.twitter.com/ersl0MY724
— Brad Johnson (@bradj_TX) June 3, 2020
Screams of panic reverberated throughout the crowd after officers shouted “Car! Car! Get off the street!” The protesters rushed onto the sidewalk and away from the terrace.
Officers moved quickly into the street to shield the citizens. They then ushered those on the sidewalks up the stairs onto the terrace, telling the protesters to “Find an officer and get behind them.”
Once police reacted, the truck abruptly turned into the parking lot across from the headquarters where it was stopped. Police apprehended two individuals and impounded the vehicle.
Shortly after the first incident, another truck turned down the same road, but not in the threatening manner with which the first did. It was unclear whether the driver had a similar intention or was just confused.
But after the frightening situation, protesters thanked the officers for their actions during the incident and for listening to their concerns.
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Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad watching and quoting Monty Python productions.