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'Be angry, I'm angry' | Austin police officer sees both sides of protests, strives to make a difference

Austin Police Officer Rosie Perez is a lifelong Austinite working to protect and serve the city while looking for solutions to the ongoing racial tensions.

AUSTIN, Texas — When protesters gathered at Austin police headquarters on Saturday afternoon, the plan was for officers to take a knee to show solidarity with demonstrators.

But a large group of them weren’t interested in doing so – they called it a photo opportunity – and refused to kneel with officers.

As the crowds battled with each other and with police, Austin Police Officer Rosie Perez found the strength to get on the megaphone and share a message with protesters.

“Be angry. I’m angry,” Perez said, surrounded by a group of people. "We are in tough times right now and we need each other more than ever."

Perez explained to the protesters she’s a wife and mother of a Black son and a white son.

“I had several protesters come alongside me and call me out,” Perez said in an interview with KVUE on Wednesday. “They said, ‘You're here, but just being here is not enough.’”

The lifelong Austinite learned how to ride her bike on South Congress Avenue and still goes to Joe’s Bakery on East Seventh Street. She still remembers the police department she knew as a younger girl. 

“When I was growing up, a lot of officers didn't look like me. I didn't see a lot of females. I didn't see a ton of minorities,” Perez said.

The people in her life and her rich Austin roots help keep her going, motivating her to protect and serve the city she loves.

“The patch is important, but when you leave [people in the community], they're going to leave with your name. And it's twofold. Did you do a good enough job so that they remember your name? And did you do a good enough job that you were willing to leave your name on the work that you did? And if you leave that, OK, then you did honorable work,” she said.

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Perez, who has worked for the department for eight years, said sharing her story is just one way she hopes to break down barriers with the community.

“I'm very proud of this uniform. I worked really hard to get it,” she said. “I'm very, very proud to be from this city. And I think that lets me, helps drive me in how I police. And I'm proud to be the mom of a black son.”

While she keeps having conversations with the community, she hopes to also help find solutions.

“We all need to kind of recognize that we all play a role,” Perez said. “And what brought us here today, to where we are today? I don't have the answer. If I did, then I would already be screaming at the mountaintop to figure out how we can move forward quickly so that everybody feels validated and we can problem-solve together.”

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