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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