By Roger Kuessey
Last week, activists rebuilt Garrett Foster’s memorial on the corner of 4th St. and Congress Avenue in downtown Austin, at the site where Garrett was murdered by active-duty US Army sergeant Daniel Perry in July of last year during a protest for Black lives during the summer of uprisings.
Following Garrett’s murder on July 25, activists and supporters continued to maintain and protect Garrett’s memorial for several weeks until it was dismantled in September. Despite the waning of the summer protests, regular reactionary attacks, and several city cleanup attempts, Garrett’s memorial has remained a landmark for those closest to him and the movement he died defending.
On Friday, April 9, activists and community members, led by Whitney Mitchell, the wife of Garrett Foster, arrived at the memorial site and decorated the public bench located there with flowers, candles, and a framed illustration of Garrett. Multiple banners honoring him were hung from a nearby tree, reading, “Garrett Foster, servant of the people and defender of Black lives” and, “Daniel Perry is a murderer, convict him now!” while supporters handed out information about Garrett’s life to passersby.
Organizers played a previously recorded speech from Whitney which recounted the events following Garrett’s murder—how the police deprived her of information on her husband as he lay dying in the hospital. She said that the detective in charge of the case has still not pressed forward with any investigation into Daniel Perry.
Organizers reiterated the demands of families in Austin who have lost loved ones to police and reactionary violence. “Our demands are very simple!” one speaker said. “We want the arrest and conviction of murderers with no bail and no slander of victims. We also want complete financial reparations, the conviction of Christopher Taylor, and justice for Mike Ramos!”
Activists affirmed that Garrett was a true servant of the people, with a genuinely kind character that he will always be remembered for, and expressed outraged that his murderer still walks free. Organizers said that the families are not interested in ruling-class justice nor the empty promises of politicians, and that people’s justice is the only path to rectifying the lost lives of Garrett Foster, Alex Gonzales Jr., and all the victims of police and reactionary violence.
There were more than 50 people in attendance, including the Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt Gun Club (EGPGC), a Black self-defense organization, who stood by armed with rifles guarding the event throughout its duration. When asked what brought them out, a leader of EGPGC cited Austin police violently throwing Whitney from her wheelchair following the rebuilding of the memorial for Alex Jr. the previous week, saying, “We were made aware of a situation where she was paying respect to her late husband.” Describing video of the attack, the EGPGC leader called it “police brutality at its finest.”
The event concluded with a moment of silence in Garrett’s honor and followed with a short march to a nearby park, after which the crowd socialized with Whitney and each other as the EGPGC and other activists stood guard. Attendees shared their thoughts with Tribune on the renewed organizing to claim justice not just for Garrett and Alex Jr., but also for Mike Ramos, Javier Ambler, and other victims of the police and reactionaries. One supporter stated, “I think it’s amazing, and this is the kind of solidarity that leads to sustainable organizing. It’s more important than ever.”
Following the reactionary disturbance and attacks from the police during the Alex Jr. memorial rebuild on April 5, activists told Tribune they are getting more organized and more disciplined: “We have protocol and security measures now because reactionaries are gonna come. They exist.”
“It doesn’t matter how many times these memorials get taken down,” Whitney told Tribune. “I’m not going to stop rebuilding them and I’m not going to stop fighting.”
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