by Mike Talavera
Last Saturday, Austin police retaliated against a group of protesters who had successfully thwarted a fascist-led pro-police rally, arresting several and pinning one young man face down on the ground and repeatedly punching him. The crackdown came after two men, one the son of a police officer and the other a former or part-time police officer, tried to ram their vehicles through the protest, the first waving a gun after the crowd swarmed his vehicle.
The young protester was standing in the police’s way as they moved to confront protesters in the intersection in front of Austin Police Department Headquarters that evening, when one officer lunged and grabbed him. That led to the young man being chased down, tackled, and repeatedly punched. He told local station KXAN that he couldn’t breath with the multiple officers on top of him.
This act of police brutality was captured and shared in a Twitter video, which APD responded to with a tweet listing the serious offenses they had charged the protester with, like throwing a scooter at a police horse and assaulting an officer. Video evidence and witness testimony shows that these alleged acts did not take place, and the protester himself denied that they happened in his interview with KXAN.
This was only one example of the police attacks that happened on Saturday. The protesters never backed down from police attempts at intimidation and repeatedly crossed the arbitrary barriers the police had set up around their headquarters. Police did their best to suppress this defiance, using pepper spray and throwing protesters to the ground, but their tactics only enraged protesters more.
Activists on the ground told Tribune that many arrests were prevented by protesters having each others backs and that the mace used by police was less effective because more protesters have come prepared with protective gear.
Saturday’s violence further exposed the divide between the vast majority of the people and the police, who gave protection to the drivers and were photographed accepting bribes in the form of food donations from the Texas Nomads, the fascist organizers of the shutdown pro-police rally.
Local media outlets like KXAN downplayed or flat-out erased facts from Saturday’s events to conceal the continuing brutality of APD despite promises made by police chief Brian Manley that use of force would be more restricted.
KVUE also falsely reported that Logan Bucknam, who brandished the gun at protesters after he failed to run them over, was taken into custody by police, when photographs show that he was only briefly moved into the safety of the police garage before he was quickly released with his vehicle. According to online records, Bucknam is the son of a Maine police chief, and pictures from the protest show pro-police vanity license plates on his vehicle.
One activist told Tribune that the protest, being led by the Mike Ramos Brigade, was at the intersection facing the front of APD HQ when the sound of a speeding car was heard behind them. Protesters had let other vehicles through the intersection earlier that had driven slowly, but the noise of acceleration quickly signaled that something was wrong. “He was driving way over the speed limit and stopped right before he hit a guy,” the activist said. “We really thought he was going to hit him.”
Protesters quickly swarmed Bucknam’s car in anger. “Then everyone started screaming ‘gun!” said another protester named Monique. “He was pointing at everybody in the crowd.”
Bucknam then drove down the street, where police formed a barricade to protect him and took him behind the gated police parking garage.
Although the planned pro-police rally was prevented, protesters still spotted a small group of fascists and white supremacists, including Texas Nomad Christopher Richie, a few blocks down the street from APD HQ. Protesters suspected that Bucknam had come from this group, as well as former or part-time police officer and real estate agent Tim Hamby, who drove his truck into the crowd shortly after Bucknam.
Another protester told the Tribune that she and a few others had been directing traffic at the intersection after Bucknam had been moved to the garage, and most vehicles had complied until a black truck pulled towards them. “He put his foot on the gas, and at least four of us were suddenly on the hood of the car. Fortunately I had a sign with me and I was pushing against it,” she said. “I was like ‘is this the day I get run over?”
Protesters began hitting the truck in response, and Hamby pulled away and drove off. He was tailed by another protester in a car who took pictures of his license plate and followed him back to the APD parking garage. Information gleaned from a license plate report shared with the Tribune connects the vehicle to Timothy Ray Hamby, who ironically did an APD public service announcement last year on Twitter about vehicle safety.
The threats posed by the police, fascists, and reactionaries on Saturday have not discouraged protesters but emboldened them. “Every protest has shown us two things: One, the police do not serve and protect people, they inflict violence and protect fascists and racists. Two, the people will always fight back,” one spokesperson from the Mike Ramos Brigade told the Tribune. “Protesters are getting better organized and braver, conducting countless de-arrests and not running away when cops try to advance on them.”