40 arrested during weekend protests in Austin

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Police Department made 40 arrests during protests over the weekend, most of them for non-violent offenses like blocking a highway or interfering with a police officer.

Two people were arrested for assault by contact, and another was arrested for the assault of a peace officer.

Protesters took to the streets in multiple demonstrations, fueled by the recent shooting death of protester Garrett Foster.

Local and state police also showed up in big numbers in anticipation of the protests. In multiple arrest reports from the weekend, police reference protesters “armed with long rifles, bats, pipes and other items.”

“They aggressively confront vehicles and other people along these roadways,” one report says.

Some of the reports made reference to the shooting of Foster last month.

“This reckless behavior has caused a substantial safety risk to not only the vehicles traveling these roadways but to the crowds of people themselves,” the report reads.

For more perspective, KXAN spoke with Austin-based intelligence and security firm Stratfor, which has studied and tracked protests across the country.

“It’s hard to see any kind of common understanding,” said Ben West, a Global Security Analyst within Stratfor/Rane. “I think this gets back to demands behind the protest, the motivations behind the protest are shifting.”

West says the demonstrations have grown more diverse, here in Austin and nationwide.

While many of the protesters are under the same ideological umbrella, some groups come with different interests.

“Obviously people are still concerned about George Floyd and Black Lives Matter, but it also expands beyond that to include protests against the deployment of federal forces in Portland and other cities,” said West.

West says the more diverse the protest, the more likely it is to attract counter-protesters. He added that tension is building because we’re starting to enter peak election season.

“[The protest] has a tendency to lose focus and become more of a melee, both rhetorically and physically,” he said.

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