Austin: Youth Rally for Black Lives, Activists Debate the Issues

By David Martinez

Saturday, July 11, a new student-led group, Austin Liberation Youth Movement, organized a rally and march in Downtown Austin in support of the ongoing protest movement against police murders of Black people. The youth brought together reformist groups and individuals, such as the Austin Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Austin Justice Coalition, and candidate for Travis County Attorney, Delia Garza. The Mike Ramos Brigade also spoke and made political interventions that fostered public debate on questions such as the relation of reforms to revolution.

The event began with speakers at the Texas Capitol. These included Delia Garza, a candidate for County Attorney, who stated her support for the call to ‘defund the police’. As she came to a pause, an activist with the Mike Ramos Brigade addressed Garza, asking if she would use her power as County Attorney to drop misdemeanor charges against protesters.

Garza quickly replied, “Absolutely,” to which the crowd cheered. Garza, who won her primary runoff on Tuesday, is now in the position to follow through on this, or show if it was simply another empty promise from a politician. The people’s pressure will be the key determinant in her follow through.

Following these speakers, the protest marched down Congress Avenue to Austin City Hall, where the young organizers installed a memorial on the amphitheater outside of the building. They had placed dozens of photos of the victims of police violence across the front of the seating area.

The Mike Ramos Brigade (MRB) was offered a slot to speak, and reiterated their organizational demands. The next to speak was Chas Moore, the executive director of Austin Justice Coalition.

Throughout his long speech, Moore threw out vague accusations that could be inferred as directed at MRB, telling the crowd, “I’m challenging y’all to not be like some of these organizations who don’t work with community, because of their own ego.”

Once he stepped away from the mic, supporters of MRB immediately approached Moore to challenge his claims that they don’t have community ties. MRB acknowledge that Mike Ramos’ mother, Brenda, does not support them (a key criticism of their detractors), but said it was an outright lie to claim they don’t have community support. By Tribune’s estimate, MRB has organized and participated in more anti-police actions since before the May Uprising than any other local organization, becoming a basic fixture in the protest movement.

Moore did criticize MRB for not acknowledging when AJC has made positive changes, such as their vow not to work with the police after Mike Ramos’ killing, which MRB accepted, with the caveat that it shouldn’t have taken Ramos’ killing to reach that decision. Moore also acknowledged that it was wrong to not publicize that he had returned a past $250 donation from former APD chief Art Acevedo.

Moore told MRB that after a political confrontation between one of the Targeted Three and Moore that occurred at a protest on July 31, “The Feds contacted me because they saw that, and they was like, ‘would you participate in an investigation?’ I said ‘Absolutely not.”

Chas Moore (LEFT) in discussion with activists

Moore’s refusal to cooperate with Federal persecution was principled and praiseworthy, showing that even those involved in legalistic and reformist work can defend revolutionaries despite disagreements, instead of turning into state informants.

As the discussion continued, Moore conceded that MRB are serious organizers and doing, “work that is very important and needed.” The discussion began to center around the necessity of revolutionary ideas and theory in contrast with the constant attempts to integrate into the ruling class’s dying system. Moore, who had set a hostile tone with some of his comments on the mic, through struggle became more interested in the revolutionary theory that informs groups like MRB.

In contrast, Eric Brown of JUST America, an activist known for collaborating with police and consorting with fascists, was also present, and interjected at times with his own incorrect views which few united with. Some activists tolerated him, but others confronted him over his past actions, which he attempted to deflect with the use of identity politics.

The impromptu debate between Moore and MRB held an audience of about two dozen people for an hour after the end of the march, and even after the discussion ended, rally goers lingered in groups to discuss their own understandings of the dialectic between reformism and revolution, and ideas about socialism. The discussions showed the people’s hunger for in-depth discussions of politics can not be contained, and political struggle must continue for deeper unity to be reached between all those who sincerely desire to fight for a better world.