Austin: Community Gathers to Celebrate and Support Political Arrestees

By David Martinez

Austin community members gathered on Sunday afternoon for a social event to celebrate and support local arrestees from the summer of uprisings and protests against police brutality. The event was held by the Drop the Charges coalition, and in attendance were protesters facing a myriad of charges, joined by their family, friends, and other supporters.

With Autumn and Halloween themed decorations displayed on picnic tables in an East side park, event attendees gathered to eat, socialize, play games, and hear statements from organizers on the importance of the protesters’ sacrifices and the need to support them.

Representatives from Drop the Charges, a coalition organizing for the thousands of protest-related charges across the country to be dropped, spoke of how those charged are not alone and the community must not allow the state to criminalize and isolate them.

“The state, politicians, police, and media have criminalized protesters when protesters are the whole reason that any progress is being made,” one speaker said.

The organizers cited examples from other cities where protesters are facing bogus charges, such as Montez Lee, who is facing federal arson charges in Minneapolis for alleged participation in the burning down of the 5th precinct police building. The organizers asked attendees to write postcards to help support his morale as he remains in custody more than three months after the May Uprisings, pointing out that while Derek Chauvin, the police officer who murdered George Floyd, “has been let out, Montez is still in prison.”

Arrestees in attendance told Tribune it was great to spend time with other arrestees and felt supported by the event. Parents of arrestees said they were proud of their children while admitting that it was difficult to deal with the anxiety of knowing they could be hurt, but felt stronger seeing a community stand behind them.

Attendees played games including ‘Pin the Horns on Margaret Moore,’ in which attendees attempted to pin devil horns on a likeness of Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore, one of the key prosecutors pressing charges against Austin protesters. There was also a Donald Trump piñata that children and attendees took turns swinging at.

With fists raised, the group took a solidarity photo which included signs calling to drop the charges for many different political prisoners across the US, including Austin’s Targeted Three, the six political prisoners in Colorado, protesters in Pittsburgh, and many others. Organizers said they hoped to continue bringing arrestees and their supporters together for events like this and emphasized the need to fight back against charges together, especially as cases make their way through the long and demeaning legal process.

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