A Real Laugh Riot
Last Friday night, inside the grounds of the Governor's Mansion, there was prosperity and posing. Outside the grounds, on the west side of Colorado Street, stood about 30 members of the Austin Police Dept., dressed in full riot gear and armed with truncheons and gas masks. A police helicopter buzzed overhead, its searchlight scanning the grounds.
The well-dressed attendees of the Austin Film Festival & Heart of Film Screenwriters Conference, who were attending a soiree at the mansion, weren't the issue. Instead, the cops, who came in three vans and two squad cars, were responding to the presence of about two dozen tie-dye-clad protesters who had walked to the mansion shortly after their protest of the Fortune 500 Forum in front of the Four Seasons Hotel ended. The protesters carried banners, pounded a few makeshift drums, and stayed for no more than 45 minutes before drifting off into the night.
The massive show of force by the APD was the last and perhaps most amusing law enforcement effort of the much-ballyhooed Fortune event. Although about 500 protesters took part in a Friday afternoon rush hour march down Congress Ave., there was not a single arrest, nor even a single bit of ugliness. APD Lt. Jim O'Leary, who was commanding the riot squad at the Governor's Mansion, said that despite dire warnings of potential mayhem, the march ended up being "a minor inconvenience for most motorists."
A few protesters even had nice things to say about the cops. "I thought it was great the way they escorted us down Congress," said Loren Clift, a Martindale resident who came to Austin to take part in the protest. Another protester, Dale Evans, said that although the massive police presence during the march was intimidating, "the cops were pretty well restrained."