By Kyle Rosse
It seems like the world is caving in on the Austin Police Department. Calls have amplified for police chief Brian Manley to resign, APD headquarters has been besieged by protests for nearly two weeks, and the crimes of Austin Police, including the April murder of Mike Ramos, have been widely circulated to a national audience. With all this deserved anger coming their way, APD felt the need to prove that they did in fact have some supporters and shared images on social media last Saturday of numerous ‘Thank You Cards’ the department had supposedly received.
The post met immediate backlash with accusations of forgery, many pointing to the similarities in handwriting and lack of postage stamps. One former employee of a nonprofit that worked with APD alleged on Reddit that the handwriting matched that of APD’s social media manager. Others online undermined the message of the post by linking to videos of the police shootings of teenager Brad Levi Ayala and college student Justin Howell at recent Austin protests in response to the Minneapolis police murder of George Floyd.
The ‘Thank You Card’ stunt is a transparent appeal for sympathy at a time when APD is getting very little. The harder the police try to make themselves out to be the ‘good guys,’ the easier it is to see their true colors. Even with the backing of the few friends they do have, APD cannot help but reveal through its embarrassing publicity campaigns how much the ongoing mass uprising has rattled them.
Since then the Austin Police Association, the union for APD, has sent out numerous texts to community members pleading for support against the City Council’s “measure to defund the police.” The messages specifically say that the measures would decrease neighborhood patrols “during times of unrest,” what amounts to attempting to sow fear of the ongoing protests, especially among white people.
Last week, Tribune reported on the empty gesture of the police delivering cookies to attendees of the June 2 protest, but something even more bizarre happened later that same evening. Around 9:30 PM, a pickup truck reportedly drove around police barricades that were blocking traffic from 8th street where the protest was happening and jumped two curbs before ending up in the parking lot across from APD headquarters.
Few clear pictures or video of the incident itself have surfaced. What was broadcast on Fox 7 and other local stations were images of protesters being led behind the line of officers in front of APD headquarters for their “protection.” Police union president Ken Casaday later said in a statement that police suspected the truck was carrying “explosives” but later charged the driver with “drunk driving.”
This episode reeks of lies as bad as the “Thank You” card post. Police have already demonstrated what they are interested in protecting over the past week, and it hasn’t been protesters. Police have defended highway I-35 with rubber bullets, tear gas, and batons, have investigated acts of “vandalism,” and have tried to intimidate the revolutionary movement by collaborating with the FBI over the “looting” of a Target store.
The mission of the police, as they themselves have shown, is to protect private property. The June 2 song-and-dance of guarding a small group of protesters from what was likely a non-existent threat was a bunch of smoke and mirrors. Deception is the only tool police have to sell themselves as anything other than enemies of the people.
Another staged performance involved Chief Manley and other officers “taking a knee” last Saturday in front of APD headquarters and being silent for 8 minutes to “honor” George Floyd. Ruling class media mindlessly disseminated photographs of the kneeling police but most didn’t show the protesters present behind the cameras agitating against the sham.
“Which one of these pigs shot the protesters earlier this week?” one woman yelled as the police kneeled. APD has still not released the names of the officers who injured multiple protesters during the clashes of the past two weeks, leaving some protesters with brain damage.
The Mike Ramos Brigade, who organized the protest against the “kneeling” performance and has led other actions, made a post about the ‘Thank You Cards’ this week. “This is straight up counterinsurgency,” the post read, “in the same way the free water, cookies, hugs, and their taking a knee BS were all attempts to win over some portion of Austin’s hearts back and get us to stop caring so much or to believe they really are changing. That’s not gonna happen.”
Because they are willing to publicly expose the hypocrisy of APD and organize against them without compromise, MRB has become a target. The police union recently accused them of leaving “wooden shields” near police headquarters, supposedly to be used by other protesters. While MRB denied the allegation, they also defended whoever did drop off the shields, stating that the person clearly “had the interests of protestors in mind.”
APD’s publicity stunts have largely failed because they can only pretend to be something they’re not for a select few, camera-ready moments. Most of the time, when the ruling class media cameras are off, they do what they’re paid to do: terrorize the oppressed and enforce capitalism. Trying to cover up their bloody deeds with a pile of ‘Thank You Cards’ amounts to putting lipstick on a pig.