AUSTIN (KXAN) — Over the weekend, protests in downtown Austin got tense. Police fired bean-bag rounds into the crowds of protesters and used smoke and tear gas.
Thursday, Austin City Council members are holding an emergency meeting to look into protocols and practices the Austin Police Department used during the protests.
More than 360 people signed up to speak during the virtual meeting. Many of the speakers will share their experiences at the protests this weekend.
One of those who spoke to city council was the brother of a 16-year-old boy who is undergoing neurological testing after being shot in the head with a “non-lethal” bean bag round.
“It was a very horrific experience,” Nikki Carroll said about her time downtown this past weekend. She said she was one of the first protesters to get to downtown on Saturday.
Carroll was one of the hundreds who were there to protest against police violence, but her cries for injustice quickly became tears of pain.
“They dragged me,” Carroll said. “I wasn’t one of the people who were going after the police or throwing stuff at them, I literally had my back to them and I was pushed and dragged after that and that was not OK.”
Austin City Council District 4 Member Greg Casar told KXAN, “That’s why I and my colleagues are saying we need to have emergency meetings where we talk about the protests and talk about what people are asking for, and talk about making sure folks were taking the appropriate action because we don’t want the police escalating the situations.”
Carroll said the images of police officers firing off less-lethal rounds and releasing tear gas into crowds of demonstrators will last forever.
“It’s hard for me to sleep at night after what happened to me,” she said.
As one of dozens of demonstrators who were injured, Carroll is now calling on city leaders to take action.
“I should have a right to protest and say what I have to say without being assaulted,” Carroll said.
The Austin Retired Officers Association and Austin Police Association held a joint press conference on Thursday criticizing the city’s response to police brutality protests and accusing city leader’s of being anti-law enforcement.
Representatives from both organizations said they are deeply saddened by the death of George Floyd but fully support officers who are trying to keep peaceful protesters in Austin safe.
Dennis Farris, an APROA trustee and retired Austin Police Dept. officer, said city leaders have failed to engage in an open discussion with protesters.
“It’s time for the council to come out of their houses and for the mayor to come off the high-rise condo at the W and come out and see what’s going on,” Farris said. “It’s past time.”
During the meeting on Thursday, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley explained to Casar — who asked what was being done to make sure that instances where people were hit and hurt by bean bag rounds — that bean bag would no longer be used.
“Immediate changes this week: the use of bean bags munition will not be used in a crowd situation,” said Manley. “It is still appropriate in many circumstances, however, not in crowd situations.”