Opinion: Austin Police Fear Mass Protest and Erect Iron Fence Months After May Uprisings

Photo: Fencing under construction at APD headquarters (Source: Tribune Photographer)

By David Martinez

On Thursday, January 21, construction began on a permanent iron fence around the perimeter of the Austin Police Department (APD) downtown headquarters. The construction does not appear to have been announced beforehand, and local bourgeois news who contacted APD for comment said they have received no response.

One doesn’t need a response from APD to know their motive: fear of the people. There is no question that the fence is being constructed in response to the summer of combative and persistent protests which swarmed the building and bombarded it with graffiti, projectiles, and the community’s full-throated denunciation.

Protesters engulf APD headquarters in the May uprisings (Source: Tribune Video)

The May Uprisings in Austin were sparked in the last days of that month, with APD headquarters as the focal point of the people’s anger. The people of Austin overtook the front plaza and walls of the building, fighting toe-to-toe against APD officers, who shot tear gas and rubber bullets point blank into the bodies and heads of many Black and Latino youth and other protesters standing up in rebellion. Every exposed piece of wall was used as a canvas to spraypaint anti-police and pro-people messages, impressions of which can still be seen today.

For nearly three months, there were almost nightly demonstrations of Austinites opposed to APD’s violence and the brutality of US imperialism’s repressive police forces, particularly against Black people. These almost always incorporated protest at APD headquarters and led to clashes, especially when the police attacked to capture and arrest those who put even a single toe over their established line of control at the front steps.

The fence will ostensibly make this enforcement easier on the police’s part, and also more strictly limit the amount of usable public space, confining protesters further to the sidewalk and pushing overflow into the streets. As it has done consistently, APD will use even a foot stepping into the street as pretext for arrest, which they enforce selectively against progressive and revolutionary protesters.

Austin’s City Council has opportunistically trafficked in the struggles against police violence, but has nominal control over the police on a day-to-day basis. This unilateral move to further militarize their headquarters is a message of defiance from APD to Austin’s city government and their desire to operate as an independent army. But while Austin City Council’s posturing accomplishes very little, APD’s forces are ultimately still servants of the ruling class and their actions serve the city government as well as US imperialism as a whole. APD has its marching orders to continue to kill and hunt workers and the poor, and will accept the intermittent, bureaucratic attempts to discipline them as a cost of doing business.

They have just killed again, murdering Alex Gonzales Jr., shooting his partner, and unleashing a hail of bullets on a car with a two-month-old infant inside. They will continue to kill and so they are hunkering down and signaling their readiness to oppose all justified protest and resistance to their ongoing crimes.

APD’s new fence further disposes of the illusion that they are in service to the people and conveys their real view: they consider the people of Austin as their enemy. Austin’s workers and progressives should not entertain any illusions otherwise, and have already shown countless times that all the reactionary violence of the police cannot stop them, and a few iron bars will do nothing to contain them as well.

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