By Brian Martel
During the May Uprisings last year, officers at Austin Police Department (APD) headquarters fired rubber-coated bullets at Tyree Talley, a deaf protester, striking him 12 times at close range. Like many other protesters seriously injured in the May Uprisings, Talley is now suing APD.
Several bullets were fired at Talley as he was protesting across the street from APD headquarters. One struck him in the groin and knocked him down. He was then shot ten more times while on the ground until other protesters rushed in to rescue him.
Talley’s lawsuit mentions that, due to his injuries, he “was unable to take care of himself or perform daily tasks, much less work, for weeks due to the pain.” Talley was furloughed during this period and lost several weeks worth of wages.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, the officers were required to attempt to communicate in a way that could be understood by Talley, and they had equipment which could be used to do this. Officers ignored the law and available equipment however, choosing to target Talley due to his political stance against the police.
APD’s response to the May Uprisings was notorious for brutally suppressing protests and left several people seriously injured. Police chief Brian Manley, who is resigning after facing an overwhelming demand from the people of Austin, led with a policy of open repression of protests and marches while at the same time feigning sympathy for injured protesters—at one point even kneeling with protesters outside APD headquarters. When the people demanded that APD stop using beanbag rounds on protesters, Manley pretended to agree but continued to stockpile the rounds.
After shooting 16-year-old Brad Levi Ayala in the head, officer Nicholas Gebhart was placed on administrative leave. He, along with many others who brutalized protesters, are still on the force while under investigation. None of the officers responsible for wounding Talley have been identified.
As a form of low-intensity warfare, police departments fake concern for the people’s demands, carrying out photo-ops and making hollow statements. Officers who are singled out are placed on paid administrative leave and only fired if necessary to save face and maintain the appearance of legitimacy.
Cases of brutality against protesters like Talley echo the constant police violence which initially sparked the May Uprisings. The role of the police is to enforce the laws of the capitalist system and by extension class oppression, and during uprisings they increase this repressive force in response to the threat that the people pose to the system they serve.
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