Most protest-related arrests were in their 20s and teens

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Nearly all the people arrested during protests over the weekend — and looting sprees that occurred nearby — were in their 20s or teens, according to booking records reviewed by KXAN.

KXAN’s analysis found more than 60 people charged with crimes possibly related to the protests. Of those, just six were over the age of 30. Police arrested 36 people in their 20s, as well as 20 teenagers.

The Austin Police Department provided the records of the individuals, and KXAN cross-referenced those with information from county booking files.

On Monday, APD said its officers made roughly two dozen protest-related arrests in the previous 24 hours on charges including “burglary of buildings, interference with public duties, theft of property, theft of firearm, graffiti, engaging in organized crime, assault and participating in a riot,” according to a department tweet.

The Austin protests erupted in response to recent incidents of black men dying while being arrested. George Floyd, a 46-year-old Houston native, died May 25 in Minneapolis, while being arrested by an officer who knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Another man, 42-year-old Michael Ramos, had no firearm when he was shot on April 24 in a car in southeast Austin during an arrest.

The protests swept through downtown on Saturday and Sunday. While the protests were mostly peaceful, there were some clashes with officers. Protesters moved several times onto Interstate-35, blocking traffic. There were also instances of looting and several businesses inside and outside of downtown damaged.

Local criminal defense attorney Tycha Kimbrough told KXAN she would represent people pro bono that were charged with crimes while protesting peacefully.

“I felt like it is my duty to give back to people who are out there protesting,” Kimbrough said in a previous interview with KXAN’s Erin Cargile. “We are just fed up and tired of the continued injustices that black people and brown people often face.”

Protest surveillance

Arrest affidavits and remarks from one top law enforcement official show how police have monitored the protests for illegal activity.

APD officers said they caught a 25-year-old man on an overhead HALO camera appearing to mix a Molotov cocktail during a protest outside the department’s headquarters at Eighth Street and I-35 on Saturday. The man was charged with possession or manufacture of a prohibited weapon.

HALO cameras, short for High Activity Location Observation, are perched strategically around downtown, with many on Sixth Street where looters broke windows and stole merchandise from businesses, including Private Stock Premium Boutique and Lone Star Souvenir & Food Mart over the weekend.

Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Tuesday his agents have been placed within the protests to watch for criminal behavior.

“I don’t mind advertising this. We do have special agents embedded trying to identify criminals that are leveraging these or using this as an opportunity — exploiting these demonstrations,” McCraw said. “We’re going to identify them, and we already have identified some of them and we will be arresting them, but not at this particular moment.”

McCraw said most of the people at the protests were peaceful, and his department should allow them to peacefully protest. He also said there are individuals coming from outside the state and using the protests as an opportunity to incite violence.

KXAN checked the backgrounds of numerous individuals charged with participating in a riot and all except one, who could not be located using standard background searches, were from Austin or nearby cities.

KXAN only found one woman, who was arrested for obstructing a highway, who gave police an address from outside the state in Chicago.

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