AUSTIN, Texas — The Austin Justice Coalition is calling on the Austin City Council to defund the Austin Police Department and to instead invest in resources for communities of color.
This comes after several straight days of protests in Downtown Austin. The coalition is also calling for APD Chief Brian Manley and the officers who were involved in the death of Michael Ramos to be fired, including Christopher Taylor, who fired the fatal shot from his rifle. During the week of protest, APD received 159 formal complaints about how officers handled peaceful protesters.
Ramos, 42, was killed on Friday, April 24. Police said they responded to a call reporting two people doing drugs in a vehicle in a parking lot with one man reportedly holding a gun. When officers arrived on the scene, Ramos got out of the car but did not comply with officers' commands and was shot and killed. Ramos was unarmed, according to a public safety commissioner. Another officer involved in this incident is Mitchell Pieper.
The Austin Justice Coalition wants the City to reallocate at least $70 million for the RISE fund to cover the "basic needs of Austin families most impacted by the pandemic."
They are calling for city council to allocate 40% of APD's budget to invest in black and brown communities.
While city council members haven't flat out said they are thinking about defunding the police, some hinted at it Thursday night by voting against an APD grant. It passed, but with four council members, including Greg Casar, voting against.
"This sends an important message that we need to find it in our budget to make it up to people who were injured this last weekend and what we can do to make up for what the community brought up systemically today," said Casar.
"Our city is on edge, our people are hurting, and black communities are crying out for health and safety in the midst of a pandemic," the coalition said in a press release on June 3. "Now is the time to invest in a safe, liberated future for our city. We can't afford to keep funding APD's attacks on black lives."
The coalition is also calling on the public to take part in the following:
- Fill out a City of Austin budget survey, decreasing APD funding to the minimum possible and increasing funding for Austin Public Health, EMS, Neighborhood Housing Community Development, Parks and Recreation and other resources the group said gives the community the resources needed to thrive
- Register to speak at the Thursday City Council meeting before noon on Wednesday in support of Items 40 and 49 and against Item 7 at the regular meeting and SPEC001 in the special called meeting.
- Thursday beginning at 9:15 a.m. (regular) and 3 p.m. (special): Tell City Council to defund the Austin Police Department, beginning with cutting the following programs that the group said overtly perpetuates racial profiling and a culture of violence:
- Funding for new officers and the new cadet class,
- Weapons used against protesters,
- The Fusion Center,
- Driver License readers, and the AISD police force.
KVUE has reached out to the Austin Police Department and Austin Police Chief Brian Manley for a statement in response to the Austin Justice Coalition. This story will be updated when we receive them.
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