‘Black Women Matter’ protest held at City Hall

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The violent arrest of Breaion King last year — seen in recently released video of the arrest and “racist” comments made by another officer — sparked a protest Thursday evening.

Both officers involved are under review for the June 15, 2015 traffic stop. While in a patrol car, Officer Patrick Spradlin asked King, “Why do you think so many people are afraid of black people?” He answers his own question by saying it’s because of “violent tendencies.”

The protest at City Hall is called “Black Women Matter.” Organizers are asking for policy changes so that it doesn’t take a year for an incident like this to get attention from police. Those protesting want to see a better complaint process, de-escalation training and use of force complaints to be fully investigated.

Fatima Mann with the Austin Coalition described what she hopes will come out of this incident: “So that someone who can provide disciplinary action can step in instead of having commanders who think the culture is fine, see the video like it did this time and not say anything at all.”

“We’re still struggling for something that shouldn’t even exist to begin with,” Mar’Shayla Thomas said while protesting at City Hall. She says the struggle is for equal rights. For justice. For fair treatment she says is lacking from the Austin Police Department.

“I think it’s about more training and about them actually doing… clear checks of the people that they’re putting in authority,” Thomas’ friend Jazmone Salsman said. “And just making sure that the people that they do put in authority are looking to care about their people and the betterment of the people they’re serving in their communities.”

Austin’s Public Safety Commission Chair Rebecca Webber recognizes there’s a problem, “There is definitely a sense, a feeling that there is a problem.”

In June, the commission reviewed a study that looked at APD’s data on racial profiling. It found minorities, particularly black people, are stopped at a greater rate in Austin.

“It raises questions,” Webber said, pointing to race relation questions commissioners decided this summer they want answered. “Lets do a better analysis and also lets gather more data.”

For instance, data on those who are pulled over, but not necessarily cited or arrested.

“What we asked the police department to do is to track those stops too, with the goal of just engendering more trust with the community, of having more transparency and answering more questions,” Webber said.

A protest on July 21 outside Austin Police Headquarters blocked the Interstate 35 exit. “We provoked, we poked, we shut down a police station that should have had its doors open at 8:00 am,” said protestor Jonathan Hortsmann. The protest ended peacefully.

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