Austin City Council Member Jimmy Flannigan was confronted by members of the Wind Therapy Freedom Riders group while leaving a campaign event at Springwoods Park on Anderson Mill Road on Saturday.
While leaving a block-walking event, Flannigan was surrounded by around a half dozen members of the motorcycle-riding group, at least one of whom had a "white power" symbol on their bike, according to a press release issued by his campaign.
Flannigan later posted a video filmed from inside his car, which shows the leader of the group swearing at him and demanding to know why Flannigan called him a racist. Flannigan told Austonia that he did not call the leader a racist.
"It seemed clear from my perspective that ... this was all an attempt on their part to create a media moment," Flannigan said, adding that he was able to leave the event shortly after he stopped filming.
This is the harassment my opponents think is ok... this is the attacks and intimidation my opponents think is ok.… https://t.co/MIpB7FdQck— Jimmy Flannigan (@Jimmy Flannigan) 1605994585.0
Wind Therapy Freedom Riders appeared to threaten Flannigan with a lawsuit on their Twitter account after the confrontation.
Hey @JimmyFlannigan I’ll be happy to do an in person interview at any news station of your choosing. Let’s do this… https://t.co/EF7jBnMTiJ— WTFrs - Wind Therapy Freedom Riders (@WTFrs - Wind Therapy Freedom Riders) 1606052729.0
Wind Therapy Freedom Riders members were among those "Back the Blue" supporters photographed with Austin Police Department officers in front of City Hall earlier this month. The photo—which also included Trump supporters, critics of Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Flannigan's opponent, Mackenzie Kelly—drew criticism of APD because some of the protesters displayed white supremacist hand signals.
The Wind Therapy Freedom Riders released a statement in which they said "members of the 'proud boys' organizations jumped into the picture unbeknownst to us.'" The Proud Boys have been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Kelly's campaign did not respond to an immediate request for comment about the incident between Flannigan and the Wind Therapy Freedom Riders.
Flannigan said these two events together indicate an increasingly aggressive style of local campaigning that he attributed to Trumpism.
"The only way to stop this is to ensure that it doesn't work," he said. "This style of political intimidation will continue if it wins elections."
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Nicklaus Pereksta says he loves photographing enthusiastic people, and it’s why his latest gig offering pictures to people out on Lady Bird Lake’s hike and bike trail is going smoothly. He sets up his gear on the Pfluger pedestrian bridge and puts out a sign: Photos, $10.
“Overwhelmingly, this has been a really positive experience,” Pereksta said. “I get excited when I wake up in the morning and I can't wait to go to work.”
Bikers and joggers are excited about it too. On the pedestrian bridge leading to downtown Thursday morning, a man on an e-bike rode up and posed, wanting more photos.
“I posted the last pictures on Instagram and people loved it. They asked, ‘where is this guy?’” the biker told Pereksta. Bashfully, Pereksta, who also photographs landscapes and at weddings and other events, said he was happy to hear that.
Pereksta started these photos about a month ago, after the strenuous runs required in his valet job started causing pain in his legs. And though he has a passion for photography, he wasn’t so sure when he started working independently if it would work out.
He felt uncertain about the demand for it and was also worried about having lots of expensive equipment out in the open.
“Then like the first day was nothing but high praise and people are like, this is so awesome. This is great. I've never seen anything like this before. I was like, Wow, this was really good, like positive turnout. So I got encouraged.”
Now, he wants to expand and is thinking of contacting the Mueller Farmers Market about how to become a vendor. Still, he'll carry a connection to photographing on the bridge since the word bridge is related to his last name.
“It's a name my great, great, great grandfather came up with when he was marrying somebody. It's actually quite a romantic name. It means a joining of two bridges," Pereksta said. "So, I thought it was ironic that I'm set up on a bridge. I'm kind of representing my last name right now.”
Austonia talked to Pereksta about life in Austin, where he’s lived for eight years after living in Boston doing band photography.
What was your first experience with Austin?
I came here to visit some friends and they took me to Barbarella. So we went to Barbarella and I was like, ‘wow, this place is great.’ And then the restaurants and the food and going to Barton Springs. I was like, ‘this is amazing.’ Because there's nothing like that in Boston. If you want to go to a natural spring, you got to go to New Hampshire. There's no pools in the city at all. So there's lots of swimming out here.
What do you like best about Austin?
You go to any little quiet bar and there's a band playing that should be like onstage for a sold out show. Yeah, they're playing to 10 people, right? Like, one of the best bands ever and they're playing for 10 people, right? And just little magic moments like that are pretty fun. You just run into little random weird things.
What do you think makes Austin different from other places?
There’s no fall.
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