Austin Justice Coalition speaks out ‘retaliation’ for those who come forward during investigation into racism at APD

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Chas Moore, of the Austin Justice Coalition, speaks at a Tuesday conference (KXAN)

Editor’s note – An earlier version of this article incorrectly said the first round of investigations will begin in February. That’s when they will end.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Tuesday night, the Austin Justice Coalition, along with guests, discussed “a legacy of racism in Austin” as they urged the Austin Police Department to be willing to have “uncomfortable” conversations around its current investigation into allegations of systemic racism within the department.

BACKGROUND: Anonymous complaint to City alleges former APD assistant chief used ‘n word’ to refer to African-Americans

The coalition hosted a press conference at Austin City Hall to discuss its concerns about “possible obstruction” of the investigation.

According to AJC — who was joined by Austin City Council members and community leaders — while the initial investigation is due this month, “recent actions within the department will likely impede” it.

BACKGROUND: 2nd Austin police leader center of racism complaint, investigation authorized

“We want to make sure that the investigations and the credibility of the investigations are not tampered by people being retaliated against,” said Chas Moore, of AJC, who took the podium wearing a shirt bearing the message “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Blackness.”

He said that it “seems” that there is some sort of retaliation happening toward people who are speaking up.

Moore continued, saying:

“In Austin, we are finally getting to a point where we’re talking about racism in a very real way and that means through the process, some of us are going to have to be challenged and called out for our racist actions and our racist attitudes and racist beliefs.”

Elaborating, Moore expressed a message to anyone who may field allegations or questions relating to their own actions or words as they relate to racism, saying people must be willing to look at themselves and their own biases and attitudes that could be racist without being defensive and refusing to have the conversation.

“That doesn’t mean that when you are challenged, or accused of being racist, that you get defensive. That means, ‘I’m going to listen.’ It means you take the time to recognize what people are telling you.”

Austin City Council member Natasha Harper-Madison also spoke at the event, explaining her experiences as an African-American woman who grew up in Austin. While she said that some of the daily discrimination she experiences, may be unintentional, much of it may have been intentional, saying Austin has a legacy of racism.

“Confronting racism in Austin must become our norm and shouldn’t come at the risk of compromising your career,” said Harper-Madison. “… Anyone who would seek to obstruct, retaliate, shame or smother another, anyone’s experience or truth will face the consequences. It’s a new day in Austin and the sun is just now rising.”

The investigation arose as a result of several allegations, including an anonymous complaint back in November 2019, which alleged that Former Assistant Chief Justin Newsom used racist language — including the ‘n word’ — to refer to people in the department. Another complaint at the time alleged that APD Chief Brian Manley agreed to keep homophobic sentiments made by others in secret, the complaint alleging he supported sending someone to Christian gay conversion therapy.

In the Tuesday conference, Harper-Madison says it appears that the first round of investigations will end in February.

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