The Austin Chronicle

Trio of Public Safety Rallies Saturday

By Chase Hoffberger, September 18, 2015, News

On Monday morning, Sept. 14, an anonymous member of the anti-police-brutality activist group the 1312 Project – shorthand for "All Cops Are Bastards" – posted a message on Facebook announcing a change of plans. This Saturday, Sept. 19, the group will send its membership to rally at the Capitol rather than APD headquarters. "It appears as though some organizers' desire to control this movement has resulted in, at best, police collaboration and, at worst, the active selling out of other organizers," read the note. "We see this as a breach in camaraderie that puts those of us who were planning on meeting at APD headquarters in far more danger." The seven-paragraph message concluded with an edict: "Fuck the cops, fuck politicians, and stay savvy," it read.

The 1312 Project's change in plans comes in direct response to reports that Police Chief Art Acevedo met last Thursday evening with Robert Chody, the former APD officer and current Williamson Coun­ty constable who's organized Saturday's expected-to-be-enormous Police Lives Matter march from APD HQ to the Capitol, and members of the local Black Lives Matter chapter, whose Rally Against Police Brutality march also circles the Capitol Saturday morning. The chief told KVUE the sit-down concerned all three parties' intentions of keeping Satur­day's affairs peaceful. But Acevedo also noted the likelihood of "some people trying to hijack that movement by saying things like we should go kill cops, we should just kill white people." Acevedo called them "crazy people," and said they "aren't legitimate members of Black Lives Matter."

That's a consideration that's come into question since news broke that the city would host three discordant rallies at the same time this Saturday morning. Members of the 1312 Project did not respond to calls from the Chronicle, but Margaret Haule, who spoke on behalf of Black Lives Matter, quickly made it known that her organization is "not to be confused" with the 1312 Project. "We don't do things that are considered illegal," she explained. "We're not trying to get a bad rap. We're more transparent and open. It's important that people see there are people playing an active role in the community."

It's Chody's pro-police rally that's made the possibility of confrontation a bit more likely. Chody tells the Chronicle his Police Lives Matter march is not a direct response to the Black Lives Matter movement or its offshoots. Rather, he says, it's a local iteration of the march in Houston last Saturday commemorating the August death of Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Darren Goforth. But there's messaging in the rally's event page – a reference to "the silent majority" being "fed up with this criminal movement" – that's come into question among BLM advocates. Tack on the rally's name, a three-word phrase also ending in "Lives Matter," and it's easy to understand why many see Saturday's events as two groups united in a face-off.

Chody notes that the name also came from Houston, and that he's "not trying to negate or take anything away from any cause. "I'm proud to be supporting Police Lives Matter, because they do matter," he continued. "I don't want to shy away from that. Other people have a cause that, to them, is worthwhile, and it may be worthwhile."

Making matters more contentious is Chody's checkered past at APD. He resigned with the department's "blessings" in June 2007. But in 2001, he was served with a lawsuit alleging that he brutally beat 15-year-old African-American Marcus Dewayne Frank before arresting him without probable cause. (See "The Millionaire Who Would Be Constable," Sept. 28, 2007, which has made its way around the Internet these past few weeks. Chody called the story "accurate" and "unfortunate," albeit "one-sided" – he refused to comment prior to its publishing.)

The 1312 Project has decried Chody as a "millionaire piece of shit." Haule and the Black Lives Matter movement have been a bit more reserved in their assessment, choosing rather to focus their energy on improving their own rally. "This won't be the last time that people disagree with us, so I'm trying to amplify our cause," she said.

The goal – Saturday and every day – is to keep everyone safe. Those assembled at the Capitol will be talking. The question remains as to who among the three contingencies will listen.

The Police Lives Matter rally and march leaves from APD headquarters at 10am this Saturday, Sept. 19, marching to the Texas State Capitol. The Rally Against Police Brutality and the 1312 Project's Response to Racist Police demo both meet at the Capitol at 10am.

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