By Oliver Powell
On February 26, protesters and activists gathered outside the governor’s mansion in Austin and marched through downtown to protest ERCOT and governor Greg Abbott’s role in the winter disaster that began on February 14.
The protesters blamed the privatized energy grid and the capitalist system as a whole, which includes the owners of transmission lines and power plants, for leaving many Texans without power and water amid record-setting low temperatures. The protesters condemned the capitalists who caused this disaster by putting profits over people’s lives and called for the working class to organize a utility strike—refusing to pay for overpriced power that was not available during large portions the storm.
Facing the Capitol from the governor’s mansion, protesters held a banners reading, “No Power. No Water. No Payment! Join the Strike!” and “Make the Ruling Class Pay for its own Crisis,” signed by the Popular Women’s Movement. As a crowd formed, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and Austin Police Department (APD) officers gathered nearby in an effort to intimidate the protesters. Despite the police presence, demonstrators stood their ground and chanted, “The whole damn system is to blame! We won’t let the people die in vain!” and “They left us in the cold to die! Cast the ruling class aside!” The signs and chants were met with cars honking in support, and by passers-by signaling their agreement with the demands.
Many in the crowd agreed that the disaster was caused by capitalist mismanagement. One protester explained to Tribune of the People, “This was avoidable.” He said, “We didn’t have to lose power. We didn’t have to lose water. These are decisions that people in power, people in government, and people in industry have made. That’s where the responsibility lies.”
As the demonstration continued, a group of activists approached the front of the mansion and dumped furniture from homes and apartments that flooded due to burst pipes during the storm. One activist explained the symbolism of this action, saying, “Their negligence not only led to the damaged furniture, but to damaged homes where tenants could no longer live. They [the state] think it’s okay, so they should be left to deal with the damage.”
As a second load of furniture was brought to the mansion, the nearby APD and DPS officers chased and arrested three of the activists—tackling and pinning one of them to the ground. The protesters rallied against the police for brutalizing the rightfully angry people protesting the capitalist-caused disaster, and began marching toward City Hall. The protesters chanted, “We’re not here to make amends, Abbott’s hands have blood on them!” which echoed through the streets as they marched, and more bystanders began to join in.
Once at City Hall, speakers denounced the capitalists and politicians who caused this crisis, and left the working class to suffer while they remained seemingly unaffected. When asked about the ruling class’ response to the crisis, one bystander at the protest told Tribune, “They probably didn’t go without water or power. They live comfortable lives. They think it’s not a big deal because they don’t relate to the working class.”
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