The Austin Police Department reports no known threats to the Austin area ahead of Inauguration Day on Wednesday, but remains on tactical alert following the deadly, pro-Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month.
"We're not really seeing a lot out there with regards to rival groups coming out, but we're certainly prepared for that," Assistant Chief Joseph Chacon said Tuesday.
As a precaution, the department is on tactical alert, meaning officers of all ranks report to duty in uniform and are ready to deploy out into the community if needed.
APD has also sent a contingent of 49 officers to Washington D.C. to assist with Inauguration Day security. This is the fifth inauguration the department has done so, although it sent fewer officers this year due to concerns about possible unrest in Austin.
"With the events that we just saw on Jan. 6 in our U.S. Capitol, I think it's more important than ever that we contribute to the effort to keep our president safe," Chacon said.
Last week, Council Member Alison Alter urged APD Chief Brian Manley to denounce the riot and launch an investigation into whether any APD employees had participated, according to local reports. (An 18-year veteran of the Houston Police Department is under federal investigation after participating.)
APD is not actively monitoring its officers or their social media profiles, Chacon said, and has not received any indications that they need to be. "They know what the rules are, and they know what they have to be doing to remain professional," he added.
APD is not the only law enforcement agency preparing for the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, which will take place on the day after the Texas state holiday honoring the Confederacy.
The Texas Department of Public Safety has deployed additional officers to the Texas Capitol, whose grounds it abruptly closed on Friday through Wednesday.
DPS "is aware of armed protests planned at the Texas State Capitol this week and violent extremists who may seek to exploit constitutionally protected events to conduct criminal acts," Director Steven McCraw said in a recent statement.
Federal law enforcement is also at work. The San Antonio branch of the FBI said its "efforts are focusing on identifying, investigating and disrupting individuals that are inciting violence and engaging in criminal activity" in a statement shared with Austonia. The U.S. Attorneys representing the four districts in Texas also announced their intent to prosecute any violations of federal law committed at the Texas Capitol or elsewhere.
Dozens of armed gun rights advocates gathered outside of the Texas Capitol on Sunday, although protestors reportedly said the event had nothing to do with Inauguration Day.
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As Texas gets ready to lift the mandatory mask mandate on March 10, food and bar workers gathered at the Texas Capitol to express their frustration with the lack of COVID-19 precautions without adequate access to the COVID-19 vaccine.The event, which began at 1 p.m. on Monday, was hosted by the Austin chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, Restaurant Organizing Project and The Amplified Sound Coalition.
Christa McWhirter<p>Crystal Maher, a member of the Restaurant Organizing Project, stands in front of the Texas Capitol to express to other protesters in attendance how not being eligible for a vaccine has impacted her ability to safely keep her job. </p>
Christa McWhirter<p>Kiara Collins, Eric Santos and Taylor Escamilla are all essential workers who have been questioning their safety in their workplace. As many of the other protesters, the three wore masks with the word "Expendable" on it. According to Collins, they were only given to essential workers in attendance to represent how they have been treated since the onset of COVID-19.</p>
Christa McWhirter<p>As Maher continues to introduce speakers, two essential workers who came out to support the protest, record as counter-protesters heckled the event's speakers.</p>
Christa McWhirter<p>Some of the counter-protesters in attendance were live streamers from InfoWars, an extremist organization, who heckled speakers until the rally dispersed. </p>
Christa McWhirter<p>A representative of the Del Valle Community Coalition spoke about the impact the lack of vaccine access has had on the Del Valle area. As she attempted to give her speech, anti-masking protesters yelled at her causing many people to attempt to block them out.</p>
Christa McWhirter<p>Protesters blocked the way of anti-mask counter protesters as they heckled the event's speakers and held "My Body My Choice" signs. "It's kind of insane how they're using 'my body, my choice.' It doesn't only affect you. So it's not just your body," Taylor Escamilla said.</p>
Christa McWhirter<p>Jeanette Gregor, cofounder of Amplified Sound Coalition, also had to fend off counter-protesters as she gave an impassioned speech about the danger essential workers place themselves in by going to work and have yet to qualify for COVID-19 vaccine. </p>
Christa McWhirter<p>Around 2 p.m., State Troopers began to arrive at the Capitol amid heightening tensions from protesters and counter-protesters. As police presence began to increase, the event came to end about 15 minutes later. Despite the constant back and forth between sides and the arrival of law enforcement, the protest came to end peacefully.</p>
The world has changed drastically over the past year, and South by Southwest, one of Austin's most beloved institutions, has, too.
After being abruptly canceled by the city last year, one week before it was set to kick-off due to the increasing understanding of the potential impact of COVID-19, it returns this year in a virtual format March 16-20.
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Austin Public Health will release first dose COVID-19 vaccine appointments on a weekly basis starting Monday evening. The specific days and number of appointments made available will depend on the weekly allocation from the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Previously, APH released first dose appointments on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
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