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This story was updated at 4 p.m.
At least 15 protesters organized by Rent Strike ATX were arrested today during a demonstration in honor of May Day.
The roadway is now open. We can confirm that 15 people were arrested for Obstructing a Highway, a Class B Misdemean… https://t.co/63jJ3elUaB— Austin Police Department (@Austin Police Department)1588364546.0
APD tweeted at 3:22 that protesters were arrested for obstructing a highway as they had gathered along the I-35 frontage road in downtown Austin. Rent Strike ATX disputes the department's description of events.
This is incorrect. After the slow roll demonstration down I-35, APD forced drivers into a private parking lot, arre… https://t.co/5Ha2tpqlK2— Rent Strike ATX 🏳️ (@Rent Strike ATX 🏳️)1588365926.0
The group's demands are free healthcare, no work, no debt, prisoner release and homes for all.
Rent Strike ATX wasn't the only organization that made plans for May Day.
Controversial local organization Defend Our Hoodz has also called for a rent strike to begin today. So far, residents of a half dozen apartment complexes have joined in, per the group's Facebook page, calling for an immediate stoppage of rent and utility bills, plus full wage restitution "regardless of circumstance or immigration status," per its website. It is unclear if the efforts are related.
Local police were prepared for such demonstrations.
"The Austin Police Department is aware of planned 'May Day' events, and will be appropriately staffed to ensure that attendees and the public remain safe while all parties have the ability to exercise their First Amendment Rights to assembly and free speech," the department stated in an emailed statement this morning.
Earlier this week, Austin City Hall was vandalized, with red paint smeared across the front doors and anti-capitalism messages spray painted on the steps outside, including one that read: "May 1 International Workers Day" with a hammer and sickle.
Yesterday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that the Texas Workforce Commission has issued new guidance regarding unemployment claims. Now, certain people may refuse to return to work and still receive unemployment benefits, including people 65 years and older.
"This flexibility in the unemployment benefit process will help ensure that Texans with certain health and safety concerns will not be penalized for choosing not to return to work," Abbott said in a statement.
But workers advocacy groups are pushing for more protections as businesses reopen. In an April 29 letter to the TWC, the Center for Public Policy Priorities, Texas AFL-CIO, Texas Appleseed and other organizations called for this flexibility to apply to people with underlying medical conditions or otherwise immunocompromised and for clearer guidance on what qualifies as a suitable work environment.
"We really need to have more clarity in these uncertain times about who's actually going to be allowed to stay home if they don't feel safe going back to work," said Jonathan Lewis, senior economic opportunity policy analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities. "Especially because people can't contact TWC even for normal things that they need to do [because of high call volume]."
Lewis added that certain workers are more vulnerable—including people of color, immigrants and women—because they may not have the option to work from home or otherwise mitigate their risk of exposure. "There's not really a space for a strong collective worker voice," he said.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced a record-setting second quarter during an earnings call broadcasted from the Giga Texas construction site in Southeast Travis County on Monday.
The electric carmaker reported more than $1 billion in quarterly net income and the production of more than 200,000 vehicles for the first time despite challenges such as a global semiconductor shortage.
"It … seems that public sentiment towards electric vehicles is at an inflection point, and at this point, I think, almost everyone agrees electric vehicles are the only way forward," Musk said.
Exterior shots taken just a while ago of Giga Texas (while @elonmusk is reportedly at the Gigafactory!) during today's earnings call!
Hope @peterdog15 got to catch the technoking in his video! #fastestinhistory #Tesla pic.twitter.com/WqeDlb5wU3
— Austin Tesla Club (@AustinTeslaClub) July 26, 2021
Despite rising consumer demand and adequate factory capacity, Tesla faces what Musk described as a "quite serious" global semiconductor shortage, which will determine the company's growth rate for the rest of the year.
With increased revenue and production, Tesla is investing in new factories, Chief Financial Officer Zachary Kirkhorn said. These include Giga Texas, the $1.1 billion manufacturing plant that broke ground last summer and is slated to open later this year.
The Giga Texas factory in Southeast Travis County has rapidly increased in size since ground broke last August. (Tesla)
Musk commended the construction team for "incredible progress," transforming what was basically a vacant site into "a mostly complete large factory a year later."
I was at Giga Texas yesterday. Team is making excellent progress. Building will be almost a mile long when complete.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 25, 2021
Giga Texas will produce the highly anticipated Cybertruck, along with other models, but Musk said scaling its production will be difficult, especially given the supply chain delays caused by the pandemic. "It's going to move as fast as the slowest of its up to 10,000 unique parts," he said.
In other news, Musk said Monday's earnings call would likely be his last regular appearance, only jumping on future quarterly calls when big announcements warrant it.
Tesla Solar recently made news when it announced plans to build the nation's most sustainable residential community in Southeast Austin earlier this month. The newly built homes will feature Tesla solar roof tiles and Powerwall battery storage as well as electric vehicle charging stations.
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The city of Austin released a shortlist of seven candidates for the police chief position left vacant when Brian Manley retired in March.
City Manager Spencer Cronk hopes to announce an appointment by the end of August, which will require City Council approval.
The finalists, chosen from a field of 46 applicants, include:
- APD Interim Chief Joseph Chacon, who previously served as an assistant chief in the department for almost five years
- Anne Kirkpatrick, former police chief in Oakland, California, who was fired last year after a federal monitor criticized her handling of a fatal 2018 police shooting of a homeless man
- Dallas Police Department Assistant Chief Avery L. Moore, who is a 30-year veteran of the department
- Atlanta Police Department Deputy Chief Celeste Murphy, who manages the department's community services division
- Dekalb County Police Chief Mirtha V. Ramos, who previously served as division chief in the Miami-Dade Police Department
- Wichita Police Department Chief Gordon Ramsay, who is a former president of the Minnesota Police Chief's Association as well as one of the first police chiefs of a major U.S. City to call George Floyd's death a murder, as reported by the Wichita Eagle
- Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Emada E. Tingirides, who is also commanding officer of the department's newly formed Community Safety Partnership Bureau, which serves L.A.'s underserved communities
City staff will interview the finalists in the coming weeks, with several community input opportunities to come, according to a Monday press release.
The city conducted a public survey in March and hosted community input meetings in April to learn more about what residents are looking for in their next police chief, which helped shape the selection criteria for the position.
"They want to see the Chief be reform-minded and transparent and have a track record of fostering community involvement and accountability," Cronk said in the release. "The candidates selected show these characteristics in various ways."
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Days after Austin began once again recommending masks in public spaces, Austin ISD announced Monday that kindergarten through sixth-grade classes will have virtual options this fall.
The district will discuss the move in a special board meeting Monday evening starting at 5 p.m., while full details will be released Friday.
Teachers will not have to fret about the new option—no educators will have to juggle both virtual and in-person learning. Instead, certain teachers will specialize in virtual education, according to a press release.
The news comes after a recent spike in COVID cases in Travis County and across the nation. Children typically suffer fewer symptoms of COVID when contracted, but they are now catching the virus more often than their older counterparts without a vaccine available to them and as the more contagious Delta variant is quickly being spread.
While local health officials are recommending everyone wear masks, public school districts are unable to mandate masks due to an executive order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott in May.
Parents have expressed concern about classrooms with masks unenforceable and children under the age of 12 ineligible for a vaccine. Some have even said they would look for alternative schooling if AISD did not offer a virtual option for students.
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