An unidentified man was seen throwing a Molotov cocktail and "threatening note" into the Travis County Democratic Party's East Sixth Street office early Wednesday morning in an apparent attempt to set the historic building on fire.
The incendiary device, which the Austin Fire Department arson and fire investigations captain Brandon Jennings said was a "commercial grade smoke bomb" in a press conference, did not explode. While some papers did ignite, employees from a nearby bar were able to put out the flame. No one was working in the building during the attack.
Police have begun an arson investigation and are looking for a man wearing an American flag bandanna that was caught on video and at around 2 a.m. that night. According to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, the FBI is also involved and is calling the incident a "credible threat."
The video, which will later be released to the public, shows the suspect circling around the building before tossing a projectile and incendiary device into the building.
The Travis County Democratic Party later called the crime an "act of terror" and said that the undisclosed note had a politically motivated "threatening" message.
"We will make sure our voice is heard because you will not silence us." -Katie Naranjo, Travis County, Texas Democratic Party chair, delivers a message for the person who tried to firebomb her office this morning. @KatieNaranjopic.twitter.com/eJhnzBWLYe
— Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) September 30, 2021
Anyone who wears an American flag as a bandana and then throws a Molotov cocktail... into a building and leaves a note, a threatening note, is a coward," Chairwoman Katie Naranjo said.
The attempted arson appears to be linked to another "vandalism incident" that occurred a few hours later downtown at the Granger Building, which is home to the Travis County Attorney's Office.
According to Austin Fire Department arson and fire investigations captain Brandon Jennings, footage from that incident could help track down the suspect.
The incident is reminiscent of last year when the Democratic Party's Austin site was also damaged in a vandalism crime.
Jennings said that the arson was a direct result of the White House invasion of early 2021.
"What we've seen on January 6, 2021, to now there's been continued aggression and escalation of violence against Democratic parties as well as institutions of government," Naranjo said. "Those people are cowards. They're far-right extremists. This is an act of terror."
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With major entertainment events slated for October, the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is gearing up for a busy month.
Artists and music lovers are set to pack into Zilker Park for The Austin City Limits Music Festival in the coming two weekends. Following that, Formula One will bring racing fans to the Circuit of the Americas.
For those two events, the airport is anticipating high passenger days with 30,000 or more people departing flights.
ABIA recommends arriving at least two and a half hours in advance for domestic flights on those days. For ACL, it's expected on both Sundays of the festival along with the Monday and Tuesday after. The F1-driven high passenger days are expected on Oct. 20-21 and Oct. 23-26.
\u201c#AustinCityLimits visitors, you\u2019re in for a weird and wild ride \ud83e\udd18\u262e\ufe0f \n\nFlying in or out of our airport? We got firm and fun tips for you: https://t.co/RawVRalOXN\u201d— Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) (@Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)) 1664894083
F1, especially, could draw in loads of travelers as the three-day event saw 400,000 attendees last year. ABIA warns that highways leading to the airport may see even higher traffic than usual around the event and that travelers should plan their route accordingly.
Bailey Grimmett, a spokesperson for ABIA, said travel numbers come in 24 hours in advance. So, it's hard to predict if the airport will see travel volumes at the same levels that have happened around previous F1 races or if it'll top ACL's flight traffic.
Still, she says historical knowledge points to a chance for it.
“We've had that Monday after F1 break the record for single busiest in airport history," Grimmett said. "So context clues I would say yes, but I can't confirm that. But the historical background points to that."
In anticipation of the high volume of flyers, the airport received additional TSA officers for security screening through the end of October. To prepare even further, the Department of Aviation and partners hosted a job showcase and hiring fair to address the continued labor shortage the airport has experienced.
Relief from hectic travel days is on the horizon with November likely to see a slowdown.
"I don't anticipate it will be as busy as October just because we don't have as many events going on," Grimmett said. "Thanksgiving is kind of our primary holiday that we see a lot of passengers coming in and out of the airport."