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Protest organizers, attorney call Austin PD indictments a 'small amount of justice'

Advocates for systemic change to policing in Austin say indictments against 19 Austin police officers are just one step toward that change.

AUSTIN, Texas — Twenty months after the 2020 protests that amplified voices for systemic change to public safety, at least 19 Austin Police Department officers were indicted Thursday on charges related to how the protests were handled.

"There seems to be some measure of accountability that's taking place, at least initially," Scott Hendler, an attorney representing four protesters shot with less-lethal rounds used by APD, said. "It will remain to be seen whether juries find them guilty and hold them accountable, but certainly there were a number of officers who used excessive force against peaceful protesters and really should be brought to justice."

Hendler does not know if any of the officers his clients have brought civil suits against have been charged criminally, but adds the indictments may send different messages to people.

"It's a matter of interpreting," Hendler said. "The district attorney is not shying away from holding police accountable."

Part of the reason protests broke out in 2020 after the deaths of Michael Ramos and George Floyd was to hold law enforcement accountable for actions on the job. The Austin Justice Coalition helped organize some of the marches nearly two years ago. Organizing Director Joao Paolo Connolly said Thursday's indictments are just the tip of the iceberg.

"For folks that will go on suffering, you know, the disabilities or the consequences caused by these acts of police brutality and violence, it's still hardly a moment to celebrate," Connolly said. "This is just a sober reminder that we have a lot of work still to be done."

However, Connolly added this is the start of justice.

"Now, as we're coming up on the two year anniversary of that, I mean, it's comforting to see a small amount of justice being done," Connolly said.

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