(Charlie L. Harper III)

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.



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.


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.

(Austonia staff)

The University of Texas-Austin continued its march toward a new normal on Friday, as university President Gregory Fenves marked his last day of leadership after five years in office—the final two months of it dominated by sweeping pandemic-era changes on campus.

Keep Reading Show less
(Tito's Handmade Vodka)

Sponsored by Tito's Handmade Vodka

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 oz. Tito's Handmade Vodka
  • 4 oz. lemonade
  • 3 blueberries, garnish
  • 2 strawberries, garnish
  • 1 lemon slice, garnish

Directions: Just add Tito's Handmade Vodka, lemonade, and berries to a glass with ice. Stir and garnish with a lemon slice.

(Charlie L. Harper III)

At least two protests are planned in Austin this weekend over the recent killings of black men by police: Mike Ramos, who was fatally shot by an Austin Police Department officer on April 24 in Southeast Austin, and George Floyd, who died in police custody on Monday after a Minneapolis Police Department officer knelt on his neck. Both events were filmed.

Keep Reading Show less
Select city services—including some pools, libraries and the Austin Animal Shelter—will reopen starting Monday.
Keep Reading Show less

As Texas navigates reopening restaurants and bars safely, al fresco spots provide the perfect place for long-quarantined Austin residents. Some of these favorites are open only on the patio, others are allowing customers to eat to-go orders in the space, and a few are full service—the details are subject to change. This is not an all-inclusive list, but here they are, in no particular order:

1. Perla's

Upscale seafood fare is served under striped umbrellas on the tree-lined porch, with dogs allowed and an unfettered view of South Congress foot traffic.

Address: 1400 S. Congress Ave.

(Charlie L. Harper III)

Keep Reading Show less
(Central Texas Food Bank)

Since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Austin, the Central Texas Food Bank has seen a tenfold increase in food costs.

Keep Reading Show less