By David Martinez
On July 9, a newly-formed coalition, Drop the Charges, held a press conference in front of the Travis County Courthouse in Austin, Texas on the first official court date for Austin’s Targeted Three. While the Targeted Three are a focus of the coalition, the primary demand of Drop the Charges is for all the estimated 11,000 protesters arrested in the May Uprisings to receive amnesty, regardless of the nature of the charges.
Standing in front of the courthouse on Thursday morning, a representative of Drop the Charges introduced herself and spoke about the goals and purpose of the coalition.
“There have been discussions about over-policing,” the coalition speaker began, “but not enough about the over-prosecution of the thousands of people who have taken to the streets for Black lives over the last month.”
District Attorney Margaret Moore and County Attorney David Escamilla were both named by members of the coalition as carrying out political persecution of protesters, including backing Trump’s witch hunt to label all protesters as ‘Antifa.’
Attorney George Lobb, who represents one of the Targeted Three and is an executive board member of the Austin Lawyer’s Guild, said that he has subpoenaed the Texas Department of Public Safety (TxDPS) to provide evidence of his client being part of ‘Antifa’ as they have claimed. Instead of providing this basic right, Attorney General Ken Paxton has motioned to suppress the subpoena.
Lobb pointed out the irony that Paxton, himself, “under indictment for a felony, who uses subpoena power in his own personal defense, does not want his client [TxDPS] to cough up the same evidence that he gets to have in his own personal trial.”
Lobb emphasized, “The real injustice here is Margaret Moore’s office pursuing criminal charges against my client when there is no evidence.”
A representative from the Mike Ramos Brigade (MRB), one of the most prominent groups protesting in Austin which has faced concentrated persecution at the hands of police, also highlighted the media’s role in pushing criminalization. “In publishing people’s names and mugshots, this puts many people’s jobs and safety at risk long before they ever have their day in court.”
MRB commented on how Moore has advocated that one of Mike Ramos’ killers, Christopher Taylor, not be fired in order to not ‘prejudice’ a jury. “A racist murderer gets to keep his job with Margaret Moore’s support, but she has no problem wrecking the lives and employment opportunities of dozens of community members who were speaking out against police violence.”
One supporter of the coalition named Brian said he was a friend of Javier Ambler, a Black man who was murdered by Williamson County Sheriff’s Deputies nearly a year and a half ago while cameras from LivePD, a police reality show, recorded the killing. LivePD deleted the footage before Moore’s office bothered to pursue any charges.
“I want to tell all y’all about my friend.” Brian said, “Javier Ambler was a great big guy, with great big heart full of love.”
Saying he wants to do everything he can to fight systemic racism, Brian challenged the attempts to divide those protesting the police murders of Black people such as his friend Javier. “We refuse to accept or play into the idea that there is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ protesters. These protesters wouldn’t exist and protests would not be required if our society had cleaned up their act and started being fair and just to everybody.”
Liberation Coalition, a student group at UT Austin, also sent in a prepared statement that was read by a coalition representative. The press conference ended with a chant of, “What do we want? Drop the Charges! When do we want them? Now!”
In addition to those who spoke at the press conference, the Drop the Charges coalition includes groups such as Law Students for Black Lives, Grassroots Leadership, Prisoner Abolition Prisoner Support Texas, and others. Drop the Charges has encouraged any other organization that agrees with their points of unity to sign up at http://www.dropthecharges2020.org.