x
Breaking News
More () »

Austin's Leading Local News: Weather, Traffic, Sports and more | Austin, Texas | KVUE.com

Saturday protests in Downtown Austin end in reports of looting, fires

The protests are in response to the deaths of Michael Ramos in Austin and George Floyd in Minneapolis.

AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: This story is no longer being updated. For coverage of Sunday's events, click here. 

More protests are expected in the Austin area this weekend in response to the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Michael Ramos in Austin.

Floyd died in police custody in Minneapolis earlier this week, and Ramos died after an Austin police officer fired his rifle at him in late April.

The group "Mike Ramos Brigade" planned a rally in front of the Austin Police Department headquarters, which eventually spread across Austin to City Hall and the Texas Capitol. The group's organizer said the event is to show solidarity with those across the country who are protesting for justice for Floyd and continue to call for justice for Ramos. 

Across the day on Saturday, KVUE received countless reports of vandalism and witnessed police using non-lethal rounds and other measures to control crowds as some tried to block traffic on Interstate 35 for multiple hours. Late Saturday night, numerous fires were reported and we confirmed multiple incidents of looting.

On Sunday, from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m., the Austin Justice Coalition and Black Lives Matter is expected to hold a  "Justice For Them All" rally and march starting on the south steps of the Texas State Capitol and ending at City Hall.

Live updates

11:50 p.m. – The Austin Firefighters Association speaks out after reports of protesters throwing fireworks at firefighters:

"Your Austin Firefighters are working hard to safely extinguish fires that have been set tonight downtown during the protest. Just a few minutes ago a fireworks type pyrotechnics device was thrown at your Austin firefighters while they were in the middle fighting a trash fire under I-35. This is simply unacceptable, Austin. Attacking your police, firefighters, or EMS medics while we’re trying to keep our city safe is not a peaceful protest, it’s just hurting the people who are trying to help you."

11:24 p.m. – The APD confirms it is responding to the reports of looting on Sixth Street.

"Our goal is to protect peaceful streets," police said. "We ask everyone to be aware of APD's safety mission and to discourage illegal activity, violence and damage to property."

11:15 p.m. KVUE confirms a breaking-and-entering at Lone Star Souvenir & Food Mart. Other businesses nearby confirm they have begun boarding up their windows.

10:55 p.m. – The Austin Fire Department says crews have been reassigned to downtown but they have no additional resources right now. Their strategy is to move in and put out fires but they won't be investigating the cause. 

KVUE's Bryce Newberry confirms looting was witnessed at A Private Stock Premium Boutique in Downtown Austin. He witnessed people fleeing the store with several items without police in sight.

Credit: KVUE
There were reports of looting on Sixth Street late Saturday night.

10:45 p.m. –  Firefighters continue to work to put out more flames after more reports of fireworks downtown. There have now been at least three fires in the area, the newest being a dumpster fire.

10:31 p.m. – While the car fire has been put out, another fire was started including a scooter and other items.

10:24 p.m. – According to Austin Police Chief Manley, every APD officer will now be working 12-hour shifts indefinitely. This includes all 2,100 officers, no matter their rank.

10:18 p.m. – Protests continue with reports of loud sounds resembling fireworks and other vocal demonstrations.

9:41 p.m. – Protesters have lit a car on fire under I-35 in Downtown Austin near APD headquarters. It was extinguished before 10 p.m.

Breaking: Van is on fire under I-35 right now in downtown Austin.

Posted by KVUE on Saturday, May 30, 2020

9:21 p.m. – The APD reports approximately 12 arrests have been made today. Several others were made overnight the night prior.

"While most of the demonstrations have been peaceful, some people have thrown rocks, bricks, eggs, water bottles and Molotov cocktails," the APD said. "APD has used less-lethal rounds during the course of events."

9:02 p.m. – KVUE learns that Target is closing three area stores, and others nationwide, due to protests.

"We are heartbroken by the death of George Floyd and the pain it is causing communities across the country. At this time, we have made the decision to close a number of our stores. We anticipate most stores will be closed temporarily," Target said in a statement. "Our focus will remain on our team members’ safety and helping our community heal. We are providing our team members with direct communications updates regarding any store impact where they work. Additionally, team members impacted by store closures will be paid for up to 14 days of scheduled hours during store closures, including COVID-19 premium pay. They will also be able to work at other nearby Target locations."

The Austin stores include:

  • North Austin 
  • Saltillo Austin
  • UT Campus Store

8:52 p.m. TxDOT announces that tolls on the following roadways are suspended until further notice due to today's protests:

  • SH 130 between I-35 North of Georgetown to SH 45SE  
  • SH 45N between SH 130 and I-35
  • SH 45SE

8:22 p.m. – CapMetro says it will begin detouring all services out of the downtown area starting at 8:30 p.m.

7:50 p.m. – ATCEMS reports they have now responded to 13 incidents related to the protests downtown.

7:48 p.m. Officers have begun removing barriers left in the streets by protesters on Riverside Drive. They are now lining up across the streets themselves.

7:40 p.m. In addition to previously announcing other state resources for cities like Austin, Gov. Abbott has also activated the Texas National Guard in response to protests across the state.

"Texans have every right to exercise their first amendment rights, but violence and looting will not be tolerated," he said.

7:35 p.m. – Protesters on Riverside Drive have begun making makeshift barriers to prevent traffic. 

7:23 p.m. – A handful of elected leaders issue a joint statement regarding the protests:

“There is no greater responsibility as elected officials than advocating for the safety and health of all residents, regardless of race, creed, or ethnicity.

When our systems fail to distribute equitable justice, we must come together to challenge the status quo.

We must bring to light the hardest truths to appropriately address them and achieve the outcomes expressed within our nation’s founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights to name a few.

Similar to our success in battling COVID-19, collaboration across all levels and populations will be the way to systematic success.

As we come together under the loss of another life by detestable circumstances, know that this statement is our initial message that we are working together jointly to make tomorrow a brighter day.

As elected officials, we have an oath to care for, support, and protect all of our residents, no matter their race, color, creed, or ethnicity. We owe our residents and neighbors a system that does not discriminate nor tolerate disparate treatment based on what they look like nor how much money they possess. We owe our residents their rights as humans and as Americans.

That is why we are committed to working to create a better judicial system at all levels. We must root out the evils and inequities that have festered unchecked even through the Civil Rights movement’s abundant and unprecedented successes. We recognize that we still have a long, long way to go.

Racism has not gotten worse; it only is being reported more.

To our people who are marching and demonstrating: We see you and we feel your frustration. We share your pain and we weep with you. And we also know we cannot simply sit back and empathize. We must, and we will, use our abilities and resources to change our society for the better. Now is the time, for the sake of true equity, for the sake of true justice, and for the sake of the true American promise, to stop tolerating intolerance and to stop ignoring the plight of our neighbors and of ourselves. We have already demonstrated our collective solidarity by coming together and working across city and county boundaries during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we will use this same blueprint to address the systemic justice system issues we see today. We clearly have to change the shamefully predictable cycle of violence, outrage, protests and promises made. We have to change the system.

This is not a Black issue.
This is not a Brown issue.
This is not a Police issue.
This is a society issue.

God bless this Country during its time of need.

More to come…

Sincerely,

The Honorable State Representative Sheryl Cole
The Honorable Commissioner Jeff Travillion
The Honorable Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison
The Honorable Mayor Larry Wallace
The Honorable Council Member Rudy Metayer”

7:22 p.m. – Police continue to use non-lethal rounds at and around APD headquarters.

7:10 p.m. – The APD reports another crowd has begun to gather at the Capital Plaza shopping area on the 5600 block of N. I-35.

6:58 p.m. – Protests continue near the Texas Capitol grounds.

6:57 p.m. – KVUE's Hank Cavagnaro reports police are still using non-lethal rounds to control crowds near APD headquarters.

6:55 p.m. Marchers continue walking through the streets on Riverside Drive toward I-35.

6:37 p.m. – Some protesters have now moved to the Congress Avenue bridge.

6:27 p.m. – CapMetro says it lent buses to Austin police to provide support for today's protests. The buses are being driven by police and will not be transporting arrested people, should arrests be made.

6:09 p.m. – Protesters were seen tagging a CapMetro bus as well as smashing the windows of a DPS patrol vehicle.

5:45 p.m. – Protesters begin migrating back to police headquarters.

5:20 p.m. – Austin-Travis County EMS reports at least 10 injuries today due to the protests, including a variety of traumatic injuries. At least two people have been transported within the last half hour.

5:12 p.m. – The scene in front of the APD headquarters, where today's protests kicked off, has quieted down.

5 p.m. – Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday spoke to us as protests were unfolding across the city. Hear what he had to say:

We were also joined by Austin NAACP President Nelson Linder. Hear his thoughts below:

Dr. Peniel Joseph with the University of Texas' Center for the Study of Race and Democracy also provided commentary on today's events:

4:57 p.m.  I-35 is back down to one open lane in each direction through downtown.

4:38 p.m. – KVUE's Tony Plohetski captures the moment a woman offers a blessing to police officers.

4:37 p.m. – State troopers and other officials remain outside the Texas Capitol grounds.

4:15 p.m. – A KVUE photojournalist reports seeing a group of people attack a DPS trooper at the Capitol, as well as witnessing a rock thrown through a patrol car.

4:10 p.m. – Mayor Adler joins KVUE to discuss today's protests. Listen in here.

RELATED: 'An important time to make a statement.' Austin Mayor, city leaders speak about protests, city response

4:05 p.m.  A fire broke out on Eighth Street between San Jacinto Boulevard and Trinity Street. Other protesters worked to stomp it out.

3:55 p.m.  Protesters have congregated at the Texas State Capitol, though many now appear to be marching back towards the Austin Police Department headquarters, where today's event started.

3:50 p.m. – The main lanes of northbound Interstate 35 are being forced to detour onto the frontage at Cesar Chavez and throughout Downtown Austin due to police activity.

3:35 p.m.  KVUE Senior Reporter Tony Plohetski says Congress Avenue and 11th Street are completely blocked by protesters.

3:20 p.m.  Chief Brian Manley said in a tweet, "Our officers are working to keep the community safe with compassion, professionalism and respect, as the demonstration continues downtown. We appreciate peaceful protest and will continue providing a safe space for the community to express emotions. That being said, violence and destruction of property will not be tolerated."

RELATED: Austin police chief says APD wants to provide a space for free speech, but not violence

3:15 p.m.  The southbound Interstate 35 frontage road remains closed between 12th and Sixth streets.

3 p.m.  Interstate 35 has mostly reopened, according to the Austin Transportation Department. Eighth Street and Congress Avenue are now closed as protesters make their way towards City Hall. Drivers should expect delays in the downtown area.

All Capital Metro MetroBus routes that travel through the downtown area are currently experiencing delays due to the activity.

2:35 p.m.  KVUE's Mike Marut reports that at least one protester has been sprayed and there have been a few more non-lethal shots fired. Police are also making sure people stay off the interstate.

2:25 p.m.  Protesters threw rocks at APD vehicles. In response to the water bottles and rocks being thrown, an APD officer has fired a non-lethal round into the group of protesters.

2:20 p.m.  The Austin Transportation Department says I-35 is completely blocked in both directions between Sixth and Eighth streets.

1:55 p.m.  Mounted officers are guiding the crowd back down the ramp to I-35. 

1:50 p.m.  I-35 northbound is open, with traffic moving very slowly. Southbound remains closed.

1:40 p.m. – Protesters have started marching down Eight Street. 

1:30 p.m.  Gov. Greg Abbott announced he has sent State resources to Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio to maintain public safety. DPS has sent more than 1,500 officers to assist local police departments.

1:25 p.m.  All APD officers – approximately 2,000 – have been ordered to work.

1:20 p.m. – KVUE's Bryce Newberry, Daranesha Herron and Mike Marut said the crowd was getting rowdier, throwing water bottles at officers. Chief Brian Manley said Saturday morning that this type of behavior could be what initiates action from APD.

1:15 p.m  Bicycle officers with the Texas Department of Public Safety arrived on the scene to help keep people safe.

APD is asking the community to avoid the area entirely as I-35 is blocked.

12:40 p.m. – Traffic on Interstate 35 was at a standstill, as protesters were in the main lanes of the interstate.

11:30 a.m. – APD told KVUE that road closures in the area of the headquarters were imminent and drivers should avoid the area.

8:30 a.m. – It appeared several windows had been boarded up at APD headquarters ahead of the planned protests.

Earlier coverage:

Ahead of Saturday's protest, Ramos' mother, Brenda Ramos, released a statement pleading to protesters, "Please do not commit violence in my son's name." She is not participating in Saturday's protest but will be at Sunday's rally.

Earlier in the week, APD released the following statement in response to the planned protests: 

"The Austin Police Department is aware of the planned protest occurring this weekend. We will have the appropriate number of officers on duty to ensure every citizen’s right to gather and peacefully protest is protected, while also keeping our community safe­­­­­. "

The protests scheduled for Saturday and Sunday have been planned for days – however, several unplanned protests were held at APD headquarters late Friday night. An Austin police officer estimated nearly 75 to 100 people were gathered outside the headquarters. Protesters could be heard chanting "hands up, don't shoot," and at one point, water bottles and other objects were thrown at APD officers.

RELATED: 'Several arrests' made as protesters shut down area near Austin Police Department in downtown

Austin police confirmed to KVUE that six arrests were made during the protest, but said no officers were injured and the arrests were for "active disturbances."

The protest lasted for hours, well into early Saturday morning. Just before 3 a.m., police moved protesters off the Interstate 35 southbound frontage road at Eighth Street, and the road reopened for the first time in nearly three hours. Protesters moved to the sidewalks.

On Friday evening, Austin Mayor Steve Adler spoke about the protests planned this weekend, saying in part, "When people learn not to expect justice, our civic institutions lose their meaning and their power and their strength. Justice demands accountability."

Saturday morning, the Austin Police Association released a statement about Friday night's protest:

Austin wasn't the only Central Texas city to see protests Friday. Protesters in San Marcos were also heard Friday afternoon chanting, "Not Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA," in response to Floyd's death.

RELATED: 

'No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA' | San Marcos protesters chant in support of George Floyd

'Justice demands accountability' | Mayor Adler speaks about Mike Ramos and George Floyd

On April 24, 42-year-old Ramos was shot to death during a confrontation with Austin police at a southeast Austin apartment complex. Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore announced Friday that she has decided to present the Ramos case to a special grand jury. 

A federal investigation is underway after Floyd died Monday as he was being arrested by police in Minneapolis. Video shows former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he says, “I can’t breathe.” Chauvin has been charged with murder and manslaughter in Floyd's death. The Minneapolis mayor has called for criminal charges against the other officers involved as well.

WATCH: Overnight protests held outside Austin PD headquarters

MORE RELATED COVERAGE: