Austin City Council members plan emergency hearing to address protests

Austin Protests
Scene from Austin protests 5-31-20

Photo: Frank Martinez/KXAN

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Several Austin city council members are calling for an emergency Council hearing this week to address demands from protesters as well as tactics used by Austin Police during weekend protests in the city.

District 4 Council Member Greg Casar’s office confirmed to KXAN the earliest the hearings could happen would be Thursday after the scheduled Council meeting.

“From training to de-escalation to the militarization of policing and for us to start making the kind of change that people are asking for, for us to show that Austin doesn’t just talk about being a progressive place,” Casar said.

Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said Monday that several investigations were ongoing into the department’s use of force against protesters. He said the investigation will look a lot like that of an officer-involved shooting investigation.

Manley confirmed a 20-year-old man is in critical condition after being struck by a less-lethal round. A 15 or 16-year-old boy had also been struck, while a pregnant woman had reportedly been struck in the stomach by a less-lethal round.

“Our special investigations unit comes in and investigates those from a criminal perspective and our internal affairs department will investigate them to see if they’re in compliance with general orders,” Manley said. “The Office of Police Oversight will be involved in those, as well.

In a statement shared with KXAN, the Office of Police Oversight said:

“The Office of Police Oversight has received several complaints from incidents from the weekend protests.  We are reviewing each complaint in accordance to our policies and responding to all calls and emails. For more information, we can be contacted at atxpoliceoversight.org or 512 972 -2OPO.  We will provide more information soon.”

Demonstrations began predominately through downtown Austin on Friday night and lasted through the early Monday morning hours in response to the deaths of  George Floyd in Minnesota and Michael Ramos in Austin during police incidents.

Austin police officers and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers were positioned throughout the city during the demonstrations. On four separate occasions, demonstrators stopped traffic on Interstate 35 by blocking the interstate in the downtown area.

On one occasion, Austin police officers confirmed the use of tear gas and smoke to remove protesters from the main downtown thoroughfare.

According to the Austin Police Department, officers arrested nearly 30 people related to protests in the past 24 hours on charges including burglary, theft, interference with public duties, graffiti, engaging in organized crime, assault and participating in a riot.

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