'We absolutely have an obligation to respond': Austin City Council issues call to action over police violence
Austin City Council members said they are committed to systemic reforms following four days of protests at which there was police violence against demonstrators, vandalism and looting. Two people—a 20-year-old black man and a 16-year-old—are currently hospitalized after they were shot with bean bag rounds over the weekend.
"I am angry and I am hurt and I am sad, and you should be too," Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison said, in tears, during an emotional call to action at a virtual work session earlier today. "It didn't start with George Floyd. It didn't start with Mike Ramos. I could name names all day, and that's a damn shame y'all."
She called for police reform and a review of the city's budget, which will be developed in the coming months. "We absolutely have an obligation to respond, and my hope is that we will and do so in a way that is substantive and meaningful," she said
Council will formally discuss the protests again at a Thursday meeting, where the Austin Police Department will brief members on the weekend's events and the use of force against protestors.
But in opening statements on Tuesday, members started to consider what reforms might be on the table.
As is the case in most cities, the Austin Police Department is the single largest general fund expense. In the fiscal year 2019-20 budget, it accounted for 40% of the $1.1 billion fund. Local activist groups, includingGrassroots Leadership and Communities of Color United, are calling for defunding APD.
"When we're talking about systemic change, we're talking about all the systems," Harper-Madison said. "It's not just one system."
Mayor Steve Adler said at the work session that he hopes the protests, like the pandemic, serve as an opportunity to make Austin a better place. "I really do believe that this is an important watershed moment," he said.
Other council members acknowledged the limits of their authority. "We work on this all the time here," Council Member Greg Casar said in response to Harper-Madison's comments. "But it's so clear that we haven't done enough, and what you're speaking to is that we're not even close."
Council Member Jimmy Flannigan said his perspective has changed since the weekend and that he is committed to supporting his colleagues of color in pushing for change, despite the roadblocks. "These systems are not designed to go quickly," he added.
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Communities are rallying together after an 18-year-old shot and killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Funds from organizations all around the state–including from Austin’s own Los Verdes–are being raised to support families affected by the tragedy. Here's how you can help.
If you are looking for ways to help, please consider donating blood. Your donation can help ensure we have supplies immediately available for the victims of this tragic shooting.— University Health (@UnivHealthSA) May 24, 2022
Our donor room has availability the rest of the week. Please schedule online: https://t.co/0F2lKDqYzO
Austin-area residents can donate blood with We Are Blood.
South Texas Blood & Tissue was able to send a total of 25 units of blood both to the school and local hospitals to support treatment. After an emergency blood drive on Wednesday, the blood center is hosting a Memorial Day blood drive and should have appointments opening the following week.
The largest blood transfuser in the San Antonio area, the University Health System, is also asking members of the community to donate blood. Appointments may be scarce due to demand.
The Los Verdes community is heartbroken at today's senseless act of gun violence in Uvalde that ended 15 lives too early. We are currently raising funds to support the families who lost loved ones today, and you can join by donating here. https://t.co/52L1ZtbSND— Los Verdes (@LosVerdesATX) May 24, 2022
There is a growing list of verified fundraisers through GoFundMe, where almost $2 million has been raised so far for families and victims of the tragedy.
- The VictimsFirst fundraiser is raising $2 million to provide “100% of what is collected” to the victims’ family members.
- Austin-based Los Verdes Supporter Group is raising $100,000 for the families “affected by the horrific school shooting at Robb Elementary.”
- Allison McCullough, the aunt of victim Makenna Lee Elrod, is raising $50,000 for her family.
- The Alithia Ramirez funeral fund is working on raising $8,000 for the young girl’s funeral.
- More are being added by the hour.
An official account with First State Bank has been set up for donations through UCISD to assist the families of this tragedy.— Uvalde CISD (@Uvalde_CISD) May 25, 2022
Please know that the FSB account, is the only verified location to make any monetary donations. No other source is currently recognized. pic.twitter.com/psQb6fD6Ls
Uvalde CISD has opened an account to support families of the victims with the First State Bank of Uvalde. Checks to donate should be made payable to the "Robb School Memorial Fund" or through Zelle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The League of United Latin American Citizens has created a fund for victims, which it says will donate 100% to families and University Health has also organized the Uvalde Victims Relief Fund to help provide care for victims.H-E-B has also donated $500,000 to aid victims and is collecting donations for its Spirit of Giving Fund, which supports philanthropic efforts in the wake of Texas tragedies. Starting Wednesday, shoppers at H-E-B, Central Market, Joe V’s Smart Shop and Mi Tienda can donate at checkout or online.
By Patrick Svitek
Beto O'Rourke caused a dramatic scene on Wednesday when he angrily confronted Gov. Greg Abbott at his news conference about the Uvalde school shooting, yelling, "This is on you."
After Abbott was done giving his initial remarks, O'Rourke approached the stage and told Abbott he was "doing nothing" to combat gun violence. He said the Uvalde massacre, in which a gunman killed 19 children and two adults, was "totally predictable."
Some of the Republican officials onstage with Abbott quickly denounced O'Rourke, telling him to go away. Another man onstage used expletives to criticize O'Rourke for interrupting the event. O'Rourke was eventually escorted away amid the unruly scene.
“I can’t believe that you’re a sick son of a bitch that would come to a deal like this to make a political issue,” Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin told O'Rourke at one point.
.@BetoORourke just showed up and shook things up. @statesmanpic.twitter.com/Z1FtBwUEdJ
— Luz Moreno-Lozano 🦇 (@LuzMorenoLozano) May 25, 2022