'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, including Grassroots 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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Austin FC couldn't find the stamina to fight off a 2-0 loss against LAFC for their inaugural match on Saturday.
The match, which saw No. 21 Austin FC go head-to-head with No. 2 LAFC in Los Angeles, was broadcast nationally on FOX and FOX Deportes.
Eleven players took the stage as Austin FC players for the first time, with five starters making their MLS debut. "Ringleader" Alex Ring took the captain's armband and wore it well. The defensive midfielder could be seen leading his teammates through their first ever match, but it wasn't enough to stage an Austin takeover in LA.
As Austin FC took the stage for their first-ever match, they appeared more experienced than their track record. The club held LAFC to a scoreless first half, keeping about equal possession of the ball.
In the signature style of Head Coach Josh Wolff, the team played with quickness and intensity, nearly connecting on several fast breaks.
The club was given some generous breaks from No. 2 LAFC, who had one or both of their star DPs out for the half. While forward Diego Rossi is out for the entire match due to a hamstring injury, Carlos Vela was accidentally pulled too soon on what turned out to be a miscommunication.
"He gave us the sign that he needed to come off," LAFC Head Coach Bob Bradley said on broadcast. "I can't say more than maybe it's my fault."
LA pulled some dramatics and slowly gained more possession throughout the half, but ATXFC's defense wasn't initially as shaky as it seemed in preseason. Jhohan Romana has pulled his weight in getting the ball out of goal, and a 34-year old Matt Besler held his own in center back.
As the second half commenced, however, it became clear that LAFC had the advantage over Austin's first major league team.
Goalkeeper Brad Stuver had his work cut out for him, fending off 24 shot attempts, 11 of which were on goal.
LAFC finally connected in the 61st minute of play as Corey Baird shot one into the bottom right corner. The team capitalized off their momentum and put one past Stuver a second time, drawing roars of approval from the LAFC crowd.
While some last-minute attempts from Jon Gallagher and others were made, Austin FC didn't have the endurance to bring a tie. After seven additional minutes of stoppage time, the club lost their first match 2-0.
It's matchday! Austin FC—Austin's first major league sport team—kicks off its debut season in Los Angeles today after years in the making. We know how much this means to our beloved city and are taking you along with us as we journey to LA!
Austin FC writer Claire Partain and I are excited to bring you game-day coverage straight from the City of Angels. Check back here for updates, and visit our socials: @austonianews for the latest.
5 p.m: Kickoff!
It's finally here! Claire will be updating Austonia's Twitter account live. And we'll post her game recap after the game. Best of luck Verdes!
4:40 p.m: Excitement radiates back home
Watch parties are in plenty supply back home. Austonia's Laura Figi visited Circle Brewing Co. and found a crowd of excited supporters.
4:20 p.m: Austin FC supporters are in the stadium
Although the Banc of California Stadium is hosting the match at limited capacity, we see some green in the stands ahead of kickoff. Just moments away from the Austin FC's debut!
~3:20 p.m: Austin FC's team bus enters the stadium grounds
With a warm welcome from Los Verdes, Austin FC players were welcomed into the Banc of California Stadium.
~1 p.m: Los Verdes in LA
(Rigo Rodriguez/Los Verdes)
Austin FC supporters are making their presence known in LA, including the Los Verdes group.
Los Verdes members started having match-day fun around the area this morning with brunch. We'll be joining them about an hour before the game outside the stadium to share some of their excitement. We'll post immediately to Austonia's Instagram.
11:45 a.m: We landed!
View from hotel room where we're staying; the stadium digital sign can be seen in the right corner. (Sonia Garcia/Austonia)
Switching over to pacific time, we're here and it's almost like no time went by. It's 9:45 a.m. here.
We've been in contact with Los Verdes, an Austin FC supporter group, who is also here in LA counting down to kickoff.
8:20 a.m: LA bound
Like many of you, we've been looking forward to this moment for, let's just say, a very long time. Today, we woke up bright and early, headed to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and hopped on a flight to LA.
A gloomy day in Austin with a very quiet airport, we're headed to sunny skies in California.
As we wait for the game to start at 4:30 p.m., check out Claire's preview of the game with a predicted lineup and timeline of the long journey to get here.