Cover Photo: Active-Duty US Army Sergeant Daniel Perry
By the Editorial Board
A grand jury is currently underway to determine potential charges against active-duty US Army Sergeant Daniel Perry for his murder of Garrett Foster last July 25 during an Austin protest in the wake of the May Uprisings sparked by the murder of George Floyd. Sources have told Tribune that witness testimonies in the grand jury are ending this week, and a potential decision on charges against Perry could be issued within a few days to a week. If charges are brought, a potential criminal trial could take years. This means that the people cannot allow the bourgeois legal system to bury the case, and must continue to raise Foster’s name as part of the fight for People’s Justice on his behalf.
Last week, Whitney Mitchell, Foster’s widow, testified to the grand jury, along with other witnesses who were there the day that Perry drove his vehicle into a protest against police brutality, rolled down his window, and shot Foster point blank before driving away. Mitchell is a Black woman and a quadruple amputee who had her limbs amputated after she went into septic shock as a teenager. Foster was Whitney’s full-time caretaker, and by the night he was killed, the couple had both been in the streets for nearly 50 consecutive nights together protesting racism and police violence.
Foster was a fixture at anti-racist protests against police violence, where he would dutifully push Mitchell’s wheelchair and was known as a kind and generous presence by local activists who shared the streets with him. Together, the couple served food to the homeless, joined other activists fighting for working class tenants, and embodied Foster’s own mantra “Front line, every time!” Mitchell, even after all that she has faced, is still found at the front of the people’s struggles in Austin.
Foster was serious about fighting for change, and it was after a reactionary, Logan Bucknam, drove into an Austin protest in early July and brandished a gun at protesters, that Foster decided that he would himself carry a weapon at protests in order to defend his partner and the movement which he believed in. He knew that the police would not protect the people.
Foster was legally carrying a rifle to defend the protest the night of his murder, a fact that Perry’s defense team has used in public statements to justify Perry’s criminal actions. The open carry of a rifle is enshrined as a bourgeois right in the state of Texas, but these rights are not extended to the people who protest this system in a way unacceptable to the state. Foster is condemned in the eyes of the ruling class for his support for the movement for Black lives and a narrative of “he was asking for it” has been built since his death, especially in ruling class media, to absolve Perry of his crime.
The anti-social Perry had been building himself up to kill protesters for months, as seen in his patterns of social media posts. In response to a tweet by Donald Trump threatening potential protesters at one of his rallies, Perry’s twitter account replied with the comment “Send them to Texas we will show them why we say don’t mess with Texas.”
Perry unequivocally drove into the crowd of protesters on July 25 in order to seek confrontation and harm people. Rather than wait to let the march pass and proceed any other number of ways, he saw the protesters as his targets.
Another twitter reply by Perry details where to shoot someone in order to ensure a killing shot. As he drove into the protest for Black lives in Austin, a people’s movement he despised, Perry was primed and ready with his gun in order to shoot to kill.
Perry had so little remorse for his murder of Foster, that he appeared at a vigil for Foster to harass mourners soon after the killing. Perry’s anti-social behavior was further confirmed by Tribune in interviews with former high school classmates of Perry, including one who told Tribune that when she heard that Perry had killed Foster that she “was surprised that it was someone that I know, but I wasn’t necessarily surprised that it was him.”
The grand jury process applied in Perry’s case is only used in one other country outside the US and is intentionally secretive. A grand jury is a group of 16 to 23 citizens assembled to conduct closed legal proceedings to decide on whether there is enough evidence to bring a case to trial. They must be conducted in any case that has the potential for federal charges. The defense is not allowed to present arguments or cross-examine witnesses during the grand jury.
While prosecutors often prefer grand juries when pursuing cases due to the low bar for an indictment and the lack of defense counsel, the secret nature of grand juries also benefits the state when they seek to sweep away issues. Grand juries convened in the prosecution of police, for example, have historically resulted in the dismissal of charges. This is presumably because prosecutors only present half-hearted, flimsy cases that play to the potential biases of some jurors when it comes to the police.
In the case of Perry, the current case is being brought by District Attorney Jose Garza, an opportunist who rode into office last year by trafficking in the protests for Black lives. When he announced the grand jury in April, he did not even bother to mention Daniel Perry’s name, though this is already public knowledge. Tribune was the first news outlet to publicly identify Perry as Foster’s killer, forcing Perry’s attorney’s to issue a statement confirming his identity.
If charges are filed against Perry, he may be subject to arrest but will almost definitely be offered bail. It is unlikely his bail will be prohibitively high, but if so he will count on the support of other reactionaries to post bond, and will remain free during what will be long criminal proceedings. The bourgeois justice system, which has taken this long to even deliberate Perry’s act of murder, will continue to treat him with care and sensitivity, as Austin police did when he was briefly detained for questioning after he killed Foster but then quickly released.
Since Foster’s death, while the ruling class has protected Perry, Foster’s loved ones and the people’s movements in Austin and elsewhere have continued to raise Foster’s name and celebrate his legacy, which is a heroic one as he died in service to the people. His memorial site at 4th St. and Congress Ave in downtown Austin where he was killed is visited and maintained by family, activists, and the masses who continue to march in the streets, not just for him, but to fight for a new society, as Garrett would have wanted them to.
No matter what comes next or the ultimate outcome of the sluggish bourgeois legal process, it is crucial that supporters of Foster and his widow Whitney, and all those who share the couple’s hatred of racism and their commitment to overturning this dying system, continue to fight for People’s Justice in Foster’s name. People’s justice can not be granted by the Old State – the people must fight for it and carry it out themselves. Tribune, for our part, pledges to continue to cover this important story and raise the call to honor Garrett Foster, a true servant of the people, and defender of Black lives.
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