Austin protesters use music to unite people and push for change

Austin Protests

Editors note: This article has been updated to include information about ATXFlowdown and its role in the music protests.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — When the coronavirus pandemic began and Stay Home, Work Safe orders went into effect in March, silence fell over the Live Music Capital of the World.

This week, however, some local musicians once again filled the streets of Austin with the sound of guitars, drums and saxophones.

“This is open band, open mic,” said Travis Salas. “If you want to come join in, tap someone on the shoulder and say you want to get in. We want all of Austin voicing their voices in a positive protest.”

Musician Sloan Fussell said he and other members of the local music community, ATX Flowdown, started playing at protests this week.

Salas and Xavier Coffee said they first played in front of the Austin Police Department headquarters. The next night, they played in front of the Texas State Capitol.

“I’m against police brutality. I’m against anything that puts anyone in a negative light,” said Coffee. “But what I am for is bringing out those that are committing these injustices and bringing that to the light.”

He said one way to do that is to use music to connect people and unite their voices to fight for justice and equality.

“It’s a universal language. It doesn’t matter what the genre is, music is universal,” Coffee said.

Salas said when they were in front of APD, they had officers come and talk to the protestors and enjoy the music side by side. “It’s gone from a wall of silence through riot masks and shields, weapons armed against us on the steps, to human beings,” he said.

“The level of peace, the level of emotions that everyone was able to portray, from screaming to laughing to crying to dancing, it was everything that you can imagine,” Fussell said. “The answer is not to divide and conquer. The answer is to work together.”

Fussell said his group has been sampling black musicians’ songs.

“We’re a group of jazz musicians that play jazz standards and we turn them into hip hop samples live so that rappers can freestyle and musicians can jam over it,” he explained.

George Floyd, whose death sparked these protests in Austin and across the country, was part of Houston’s hip hop scene.

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