Texas activists will take to the Capitol on Thursday morning, calling for police reform bills similar to those implemented around the nation after George Floyd's death last May.
The killing of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer brought millions of people to the streets in protest of police brutality as a part of the Black Lives Matter movement last summer. In many cities, change took shape in various ways, including in Austin, where police funding was reallocated to other departments in the city.
Texan social justice activists are looking to bring about other changes statewide with several bills, including the George Floyd Act, which would ban police chokeholds, emphasize de-escalation tactics and make qualified immunity less accessible to police officers in police brutality lawsuits. Qualified immunity is one of the foremost protections police officers have from punishment for misconduct.
Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, and Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, co-introduced the bill, while a separate bill looking to take TV shows like "Cops" and other law enforcement reality programs off the air was drafted by Rep. James Talarico, D-Round Rock.
Behind the event are Austin-area organizations, including Austin Justice Coalition and the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, which will bring about 60 speakers. The rally will begin at the southern entrance of the Texas Capitol on 11th Street at 10:30 a.m.
As Texas gets ready to lift the mandatory mask mandate on March 10, food and bar workers gathered at the Texas Capitol to express their frustration with the lack of COVID-19 precautions without adequate access to the COVID-19 vaccine.The event, which began at 1 p.m. on Monday, was hosted by the Austin chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, Restaurant Organizing Project and The Amplified Sound Coalition.
Gina Dvorak and another Restaurant Organizing Project member set up by putting up a sign which reads, "We Won't Die to Serve You. 70% before 100%." Organizers of the protest believe that the population should be at least 70% vaccinated before opening Texas 100% back up.
Crystal Maher, a member of the Restaurant Organizing Project, stands in front of the Texas Capitol to express to other protesters in attendance how not being eligible for a vaccine has impacted her ability to safely keep her job.
The event hosted around 50 people, most of whom are also restaurant and bar workers facing the difficulties of working during the pandemic.
Kiara Collins, Eric Santos and Taylor Escamilla are all essential workers who have been questioning their safety in their workplace. As many of the other protesters, the three wore masks with the word "Expendable" on it. According to Collins, they were only given to essential workers in attendance to represent how they have been treated since the onset of COVID-19.
As Maher continues to introduce speakers, two essential workers who came out to support the protest, record as counter-protesters heckled the event's speakers.
Some of the counter-protesters in attendance were live streamers from InfoWars, an extremist organization, who heckled speakers until the rally dispersed.
A representative of the Del Valle Community Coalition spoke about the impact the lack of vaccine access has had on the Del Valle area. As she attempted to give her speech, anti-masking protesters yelled at her causing many people to attempt to block them out.
Protesters blocked the way of anti-mask counter protesters as they heckled the event's speakers and held "My Body My Choice" signs. "It's kind of insane how they're using 'my body, my choice.' It doesn't only affect you. So it's not just your body," Taylor Escamilla said.
Jeanette Gregor, cofounder of Amplified Sound Coalition, also had to fend off counter-protesters as she gave an impassioned speech about the danger essential workers place themselves in by going to work and have yet to qualify for COVID-19 vaccine.
Around 2 p.m., State Troopers began to arrive at the Capitol amid heightening tensions from protesters and counter-protesters. As police presence began to increase, the event came to end about 15 minutes later. Despite the constant back and forth between sides and the arrival of law enforcement, the protest came to end peacefully.
Food and bar workers, among others, will rally outside of the Texas Capitol at 1 p.m. on Monday in protest of Gov. Greg Abbott's reversal of the mask mandate.
The groups will also argue their right to be labeled as essential workers and qualify for vaccinations in the rally, which is organized by the Amplified Sound Coalition and Austin's chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.
On Wednesday, March 3, Abbott said in a statewide press conference that he would lift his executive mask mandate order and would "open Texas 100%," including business capacity. The reversal goes into effect Wednesday.
In response, many Austin businesses have said that they will continue to require masks in their businesses, and shared frustrations about the danger the new order puts on the community. Abbott said that lifting restrictions does not take away from "personal responsibility" but that "state mandates are no longer needed."
Amplified Sound Coalition member Jeannette Gregor told KXAN that rally members want the state to keep the mask mandate until 70% of restaurant or bar workers are vaccinated. Currently, service industry workers do not qualify for the vaccine; only first responders, healthcare workers, those 65 and older and those with an underlying issue that puts them at risk to the virus qualify.
A thread of businesses that are keeping their mask requirements.
I will add to these as I see them. Feel free to add to the list. #Austin
— Brittany Flowers (@bflowerstv) March 2, 2021
- Austin restaurants and businesses struggle due to COVID-19 ... ›
- Restaurant industry on the brink in Austin and nationally - austonia ›
- Essential workers protest for vaccination accessibility - austonia ›
- Austin to keep mask mandate under health authority Mark Escott - austonia ›
- Paxton threatens legal action against Austin for COVID restrictions - austonia ›
While 2020 gave us at least two weeks of relative sanity before COVID-19 struck, 2021 started out in utter chaos.
Despite New Year's Day being relatively quiet for the American people, a break from the madness would turn out to be short lived. Here's a look at what the new year has brought so far:
On day two of the new year, University of Texas fans got news that Head Football Coach Tom Herman had been fired. And only moments later, it was announced that Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian would replace Herman as head coach.
The announcement came as a shock to many after they just watched the Texas Longhorns beat the Colorado Buffalos in a 55-23 bowl victory and finished the season with a 7-3 record. In December, Texas Athletics Director Chris Del Conte had also confirmed Herman would keep his job.
https://t.co/w0BcDoAJXM https://t.co/fqLa3dr1E0— Chris Del Conte (@Chris Del Conte)1609605906.0
On Jan. 4, the city experienced the second-highest levels of cedar pollen in the past 25 years. This can be stressful because, while there are some key differences—primarily the lack of fever in the so-called "cedar fever"—pollen allergies and COVID-19 have similar symptoms such as congestion, runny nose, headache, fatigue and change in smell or taste.
In week one of the new year, the U.S. has experienced massive spikes in positive covid cases. Hospitals are maxing out their ICU beds, a joint statement from Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White Health and St. David's HealthCare revealed on Tuesday said that 2,473 staffed beds within all three healthcare systems are 79% occupied, and the 483 ICU beds are 88% occupied.
Congress' met to certify the election results with some senators prepared to claim voter fraud, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
Trump supporters descended upon Washington D.C. in the thousands for the "Save America" rally at The Ellipse where President Donald Trump told the crowd to march down the road to the nation's Capitol building.
Protesters across the country gathered in front of their own state Capitol buildings, including hundreds of people who congregated in front of the Texas Capitol chanting, "Stop the steal!"
Signs from the Trump rally at the Texas Capitol on Jan 6.Christa McWhirter
By mid-afternoon, the U.S. Capitol building was breached for the first time since 1812 by protesters in D.C. in what is being labeled by lawmakers across the country as an insurrection. Four people were killed in the riot—including one Capitol building police officer.
Austin's Ending Community Homelessness Coalition announced they would not move forward with the homeless count for this year, following many other cities that have cited COVID-19 concerns.
Also on Jan. 7, the U.S. recorded for the first time a one-day death count of 4,000 due to COVID-19. In Texas, the first case of the more contagious COVID-19 strain was identified in a Harris County resident.
Despite so much chaos at the beginning of 2021, one new Austinite seems to be doing well for himself. Tesla CEO Elon Musk was officially named the richest man in the world. The South African entrepreneur recently surpassed Jeff Bezos' worth of $187 billion when his worth rose to $188.5 billion.
@teslaownersSV How strange— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk)1610033547.0
Some say it feels like 2020 never ended with all that's happened in just one full week of the new year.