Protesting the Police

Hundreds gather outside APD in wake of Ferguson ruling

The last time members of this city gathered on such an occasion, in August, just days after news of Michael Brown’s death, there was an air of solemnity outside of the Capitol. The news was still in processing; the shock still reactionary.

Tuesday, nearly 24 hours after Ferguson, Mo., prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced that likely departing police officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted for the death of Michael Brown, roughly 500 Austinites gathered outside of the police station’s main entrance on Eighth Street in search of “constructive solutions for peace.” No one organization delegated the efforts, but rather a number of individuals with one singular purpose. From a bullhorn microphone, speakers that ranged in age and scope from high school students to members of the Nation of Islam tried to make sense of an unfair and imbalanced system.

A high school senior noted early that she believed she carried no voice in society. Dove Springs Neighborhood Association president Edward Reyes spoke of the need for all parties to atone for past mistakes. There were allusions to Larry Jackson, the unarmed black man shot to death last summer by APD Detective Charles Kleinert, and Trayvon Martin. People carried signs that read “Sentence Killer Cops” and “We Are Not Disposable.” One drew a swift line from Rodney Reed (one step closer to his death as of Tuesday afternoon) to Larry Jackson through Michael Brown. “No more racist executions,” it read below their headshots. It did not matter the manner of their execution.

Later, after a four-and-a-half minute moment of silence, to memorialize the four-and-a-half hours in which Brown lay face down in the street after being shot, an 11-year-old stood before the audience said he didn’t believe he should be scared of police walking through his East Austin neighborhood. “Everybody should speak for themselves and have a right to speak,” he said. “I don’t think I should be scared that a police officer is going to shoot me.”

The boy eventually gave way to Larry Jackson's sister, LaKiza, who reminded the audience that the work in Austin is not done. Two Fridays from now, at 7pm, outside of the Travis County courthouse, a crowd plans to gather to demand that District Attorney Rosemary Lehmburg set a court date for Kleinert, indicted for manslaughter in May. He’ll be the first APD officer to stand trial for the shooting of a citizen since Scott Glasgow 11 years ago.

Jackson's sister finished up, and another woman spoke her peace. When she was finished, the crowd made way westward toward the Capitol – where they’d band together with another group of demonstrators until shortly after 8:30pm. In doing so, their message was simple: This is bigger than police. It’s about systems, institutions, lawmakers, and equality.

See photo gallery from Tuesday's protest.

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Larry Jackson Jr., Michael Brown, Edward Reyes, Charles Kleinart

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