David Frost, 22, had never attended a protest before the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in May. Then the cell phone-wielding Austinite became a key player in a series of events that touched off major change in the Austin Police Department.
When Austin police officers began using tear gas on screaming protestors to clear I-35 on May 30, Frost pulled out his phone and hit the record button.
"I wasn't originally going out there planning on filming," he said.
One video showed a group of protesters carrying Justin Howell's limp body to medics after an Austin police officer shot the 20-year-old Texas State student in the head with a "less lethal" round.
His 45-second clip on social media now has more than 10 million views. Outrage over the video, and similar ones on social media, led to a ban on less lethal rounds and tear gas at Austin protests.
"The importance of documenting this stuff is, like, nobody knew Justin's name for 48 hours," Frost said.
@arianalipkin https://t.co/ZGHtMpPj8B— David Frost (@David Frost) 1590986632.0
Amateur video footage has been critical to the Black Lives Matter movement since it gained national prominence in 2014 following the Ferguson unrest—and most recently in the death of George Floyd, which prompted protests around the world.
Austin police have even recognized the amateur videographers as valuable, frequently calling on citizens to send in their footage to help—including in the cases of Howell and Brad Levi Ayala, 16, who suffered brain damage after being hit with a bean bag round that same weekend.
"I have been filming," Frost said. "And I have noticed a lot more people filming as well."
Local activists are using video footage not only to capture and post isolated incidents but also to record protests, rally support and investigate misconduct.
"I'm seeing new tactics as well as new platforms being deployed," said Professor Dhiraj Murthy, who researches social media activism at the University of Austin at Texas.
It fits into a broader trend of the public watching the police, he said, a practice known as "sousveillance."
"It's the idea that you can monitor how the police are treating people," he said.
When Brendan Walsh, another newcomer to protests, saw video clips of the Austin protests in late May, he described it as "warfare on Austin citizens."
Walsh scoured the internet for clips showing Ayala being hit. His goal: To identify the officer who fired the weapon.
Reddit has a strict anti-doxxing policy, due to its users wrongly accusing an innocent 22-year-old of being one of the Boston bombers. So Walsh created the Instagram account @justice4ayala, where he posted updates on his investigation.
Last week, APD confirmed to Texas Monthly what Walsh had already discovered: The officer's name was Nicholas Gebhart.
"There's a reason people are interested in my work," Walsh said. "They feel that this officer might not be held accountable."
Murthy says the actions of these amateur investigators tend to incite those who believe they're vigilantes.
"There have been plenty of incidents where the people filming footage have had abuse online leveled at them and that has resulted in real threats against them," he said.
Walsh said some protesters have sent footage to him instead of APD because they fear officers will ask why they were searching through their social media accounts.
Hiram Gilberto Garcia, an independent journalist who interviewed Austin protester Garrett Foster on camera the night he was shot and killed by an Uber driver, has documented being arrested by APD and discouraged comments that "initiate disagreement or discord."
In spite of of that, however, Walsh hopes more people follow his lead, especially as official inquiries drag on.
"This only took me 25 to 30 hours by myself to get a significant amount of progress," he said. "And now it has pushed from something that was just kind of an online project to what I feel is real change."
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Despite a 2-0 deficit, there was a pot of gold for Austin FC after all as it celebrated its annual Pride Night with rainbows and a 2-2 comeback draw to FC Dallas Saturday night.
After three FC Dallas losses last season, the Dallas derby draw marks the first time Austin FC has tied against its Copa Texas rival. Austin continues to edge over FC Dallas as it sits at 3rd in the MLS West.
Here are the biggest takeaways from the match:
A somber start
Decked out in colorful hues for LBGTQ+ Pride, Verde fans started the match on a somber note as they held up banners to take a stand against gun violence before the match.
As the national anthem began, fans held up banners with the names of each child that was killed in the Uvalde school shooting and a plea to "end gun violence."
The supporters' section was also dotted with Pride flags and a "Bans off Our Bodies" banner in protest of the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
FC Dallas earns a 2-0 lead
That sober tone continued onto the pitch. With midfielder Daniel Pereira's absence due to a red card, the Verde and Black lost two goals to FC Dallas by the 70th minute of play.
FC Dallas played it sneaky for the first half of the match, giving Austin FC plenty of room to hold possession as it waited to strike on a Verde error. That mentality proved dangerous for Austin as Dallas' Paul Arriola took advantage of Brad Stuver's deflection to score the first goal of the night in the 57th minute of play.
Dallas struck once more as Brandon Servant pushed past the Verde line to score the second goal of the match.
Austin FC strikes back
But energy quickly returned to Austin's favor thanks to Designated Player Sebastian Driussi, who scooted past several FC Dallas defenders alongside Moussa Djitte to snag an unlikely first goal for Austin.
A full Verde comeback
Austin's subs proved deadly as momentum returned to the home team toward the end of the match. A well-placed cross from Nick Lima—and a diving header from a fresh-legged Danny Hoesen—helped the team secure the draw with a second Verde goal in the 84th minute of play.
Hoesen, who was Austin's first starting striker last season, has now scored two goals with the team after a yearlong injury stuck him on the bench.
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Hours following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that guaranteed a constitutional right to an abortion, on Friday, about 1,000 people gathered in Republic Square with signs calling for change.
The rally, organized by the group Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights Texas, started at the federal courthouse on Republic Square on Friday at 5 p.m. before the crowd marched to the Texas Capitol. More protests are expected to ensue over the weekend.
People showed up with all types of signs like Mindy Moffa holding up, "Keep your filthy laws off my silky drawers."
Austin joined cities across the country that saw protests for a women's right to an abortion after the ruling.
According to a recent UT poll, 78% of Texas voters support abortion access in most cases.
Sabrina Talghade and Sofia Pellegrini held up signs directed at Texas laws. A Texas trigger law will ban all abortions from the moment of fertilization, starting 30 days after the ruling. When state legislators passed the trigger law last summer, it also passed laws for more protection of firearms, including the right to open carry without a permit.
Lili Enthal of Austin yells as around 1,000 Texans marched to the Texas Capitol.
From the Texas Capitol, Zoe Webb lets her voice be heard against the Supreme Court ruling.
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