Austin: Police Ordered Thousands of ‘Less Lethal’ Rounds Day After Pledging Never to Use Them Again

Cover photo by Jay Janner

By Mike Talavera

Published in a bourgeois news report this week, documents obtained from June show that the city closed on a $42,000 contract with supplier Combined Tactical Systems a day after Austin Police Chief Brian Manley pledged before City Council that his department would never use so-called “less lethal” rounds on protesters again.

The order included thousands of rounds of 12-gauge Super-Sock beanbags, the same that had dealt permanent brain damage to protesters Justin Howell (20) and Brad Ayala (16) and harmed dozens of others, as well as hundreds of rounds of foam-tipped munitions. Austin-area physicians published a letter in August denouncing the police for the life-altering injuries caused by this ammunition.

“We are learning some very difficult lessons,” Manley had said at the June meeting. “We are seeing some very serious injuries that I’m not sure anyone anticipated.”

The unimpeded flow of “less lethal” rounds proves all that APD is learning is how to appease those calling for reform by shedding crocodile tears and making false promises while continuing to arm themselves for the purpose of protecting private property.

Manley’s performative compassion for protesters was further undermined this week when a photo was posted to social media of several APD officers posing with reactionary motorcycle club the Wind Therapy Freedom riders as well as the fascist Proud Boys, who flashed the “OK” hand gesture which has become a white supremacist dogwhistle. Earlier this year at the International Workers’ Day march in Austin, an APD officer was caught making the same gesture on a rightwing livestream.

City council, for all its public outcry over police brutality and its criticism of Manley, engages in the same duplicitous rhetoric, where the goal is to placate the anger of the people without fundamentally changing the systemic racism and inequality inherent to capitalism. Even as superficial police budget “cuts” were passed in August, which essentially only took away some funds to expand the department more rapidly, the city was at the same time placing another order on August 17 for thousands more “less lethal” rounds.

In fact, plans to increase the number of APD officers are often pushed by the city council. Councilwoman Alison Alter, who had grilled Manley in June along with the other councilmembers, would later tout her support of APD as part of her reelection campaign. “Early in my time at City Hall I focused on police contract reform,” she stated in an October interview. “That work enabled us to finance 30 new officer positions each year and I voted with council to approve these new positions.”

This week’s revelation that “less lethal” rounds were still being stockpiled by APD, contrary to the theatrics of Manley and city council, illustrates how reforms are often exploited by the servants of the ruling class as a way to get the people to stand down so that the blood-soaked cogs of the US imperialist state can keep turning.

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