AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the guilty on all counts verdict for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin came in on Tuesday afternoon, Austin-area law enforcement is prepared for possible unrest dependent on the outcome either way.
Chauvin is the former Minneapolis officer charged in the May 2020 death of George Floyd, whose final moments caught on video sparked weeks-long protests nationwide, including here in Austin. The jury went into deliberations Monday and convicted Chauvin of second-degree murder, among other charges, on Tuesday around 4 p.m. CT.
Law enforcement preparations
In a statement on the possibility of large gatherings Tuesday night, APD released the following statement:
“The Austin Police Department respects everyone’s right to peacefully assemble and exercise their First Amendment rights. APD is monitoring events regarding the ongoing trial of Derek Chauvin, and we have no information of any planned mass assemblies in Austin at this time. Should these occur, APD is prepared to respond if they become unlawful. We will respond as needed in order to ensure people can assemble peacefully and safely.“
APD did say it plans to be on “tactical alert,” which gives the department more access to officers than it would usually have scheduled. For this, all officers are expected to be ready to respond in uniform. The Travis County Sheriff’s Office also said it plans to be available to help APD if necessary.
At 3:44 p.m., the Texas Department of Public Safety was seen roping off Gov. Greg Abbott’s mansion in downtown Austin.
Meanwhile, the Texas Military Department released a more ambiguous statement, saying it has a contingency of soldiers supporting Texas DPS at the Texas Capitol and are “committed to supporting the men and women of this agency, as well as our other state partners, whenever needed.”
Executive Director of Safety and Security for Risk Assistance Network & Exchange Brian Lynch told KXAN he expected to see crowds form in reaction to the verdict, no matter what the outcome. He said he expected demonstrations would be much smaller, however, should the jury hand down a guilty verdict.
Still, he offers advice for those gathering following the verdict announcement.
“Just be careful. If you want to go out, and you want to be part of it, that’s certainly your option, but know that your risk is elevated once you leave your house and decide to go to that activity,” Lynch said. “The first sign of issues, it’s probably a good idea to remove yourself from that activity and leave the area as quickly as you can. You certainly don’t want to be hanging around looking and watching things occur.”