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One year later: Austin's Black Lives Matter protests continue to shape local policy

Austinites, protesting against police violence and racial injustice, shut down I-35 one year ago today. (Austonia)

This weekend marks one year since Austinites marched en masse in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, joining protesters in cities across the country—and world.


Spurred by the April 24 police killing of Mike Ramos in Southeast Austin and the May 25 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, hundreds of protesters gathered outside of the Austin Police Department headquarters on May 30, 2020. Some later shut down I-35. APD officers used so-called "less-lethal" rubber bullets, leaving some protesters with permanent brain damage.

More protests followed, including one organized by the Austin Justice Coalition that saw thousands march from Huston-Tillotson University to the Texas Capitol. In response to the demonstrations and outrage over APD's actions, Austin City Council criticized then-APD Chief Brian Manley and voted unanimously to cut the department's budget.

Protests against police violence and racial injustice in Austin and other cities sparked reform but they also prompted pushback from the state's Republican leadership and coincided with a national increase in violent crime. Although unexplained, this trend has led some to question the utility of "reimagining public safety," as local elected officials have pledged to do.

In the year since, Austin has seen the shooting death of protester Garrett Foster, the resignation of Manley and the historic indictment of APD Officer Christopher Taylor, who was charged with first-degree murder in Ramos' death in March. More recently, City Council approved a pilot class of the APD training academy, which was put on hiatus last July due to curriculum concerns, and state lawmakers sent a law to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk that will, if passed, prohibit police funding cuts in Austin and other large Texas cities.

Criminal justice reform advocates say there is still work to be done. Meanwhile, public safety interest groups argue that the reforms already enacted go too far. As Austin heads into its second year since these protests, one thing is certain: their legacy continues to influence the city's direction.

Austinites protested on May 30, 2020, following the police killings of Mike Ramos in Southeast Austin and George Floyd in Minneapolis. 

(Austonia)

Protesters first gathered outside of the APD headquarters in downtown Austin. 

(Austonia)

They later spread out, eventually shutting down I-35. 

(Austonia)

APD officers used rubber bullets, bean bags and tear gas to disperse protesters.

(Austonia)

The police response left many protesters injured, including a pregnant woman, and left a 16-year-old and 20-year-old with permanent brain damage. 

(Austonia)

The protest spurred others, including one the following weekend that saw thousands march from Huston-Tillotson University to the Texas Capitol.

(Austonia)

The series of protests ultimately led to reforms at the local and state levels, some of which are still taking shape. 

(Austonia)

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