Protesters advocate justice for deaths of Floyd, Ramos

Hundreds gather at Austin Police Department headquarters; police resort to pepper spray, rubber bullets to disperse crowd; some protesters commit acts of vandalism

A+woman+is+forced+over+a+wall+as+state+troopers+force+protesters+off+of+the+Capitol+grounds+during+Saturday%27s+protests+against+the+deaths+of+George+Floyd+and+Mike+Ramos.

Bela Tapperson

A woman is forced over a wall as state troopers force protesters off of the Capitol grounds during Saturday's protests against the deaths of George Floyd and Mike Ramos.

By Bella Russo, Bela Tapperson, and Stella Shenkman

Hundreds of protesters met at the Austin Police Department headquarters downtown Saturday afternoon to demand justice for African-American victims of police brutality. The protests filled the streets surrounding the Police Department headquarters and at times blocked traffic on I-35, and eventually protests spread to Austin City Hall and the Texas Capitol.

Some protesters were met with pepper spray and rubber bullets as APD officers tried to control the crowd and clear the highway. This protest comes as part of a national spread of protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of a police officer. Austin protesters are also calling for justice for Mike Ramos, an Austinite who reportedly was unarmed and shot by the police in late April.

McCallum class of 2020 graduate Stella Shenkman was photographing the rally when she encountered a chemical agent used to control the crowds.

“[APD] started gassing the upper deck of the highway which caused panic and I started running with the crowd and lost my ride,” Shenkman said. “This caused me to get in the crossfire of some sort of airborne material that burned really bad. … I want to say it was tear gas but I could not see anything and I really am not sure. At that point, people around me were being shot with rubber bullets.”

According to Shenkman, “the only violence coming from the crowd were the tossing of empty plastic water bottles.” According to a Statesman report, some demonstrators later in the day vandalized businesses, broke the windows of an empty police car and blocked traffic on the Congress Avenue bridge. More protests are expected to continue in Austin over the weekend, with a “Justice For Them All” march from the Capitol building to City Hall planned on Sunday.

Although APD has maintained that they will work to provide safety for those peacefully protesting, but violence and destruction of property will not be tolerated.

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside Austin Police Headquarters to protest the deaths of George Floyd and Mike Ramos at the hands of police. Photo by Bela Tapperson.

After leaving the Austin Police Department headquarters, protesters march down Congress Avenue toward City Hall during Saturday’s protest of police brutality in downtown Austin. Before they got to City Hall, the protesters changed their minds and headed to the Capitol instead. Photo by Bela Tapperson.

After leaving the Austin Police Department headquarters, protesters march down Congress Avenue toward City Hall during Saturday’s protest of police brutality in downtown Austin. Before they got to City Hall, the protesters changed their minds and headed to the Capitol instead. Photo by Bela Tapperson.

After moving toward City Hall from Austin Police Headquarters, protesters reversed course and marched instead toward the Capitol. Photo by Bela Tapperson.

A construction crew working atop the State Theatre on Congress Avenue cheers on the protesters below as they march by. There were also cars that stopped in the road because of the marching. The drivers oftern cheered and honked for the protesters, and several times protesters would hand the drivers extra signs so that they could join the demonstration while driving. Photo by Bela Tapperson.

After moving toward City Hall from Austin Police Headquarters, protesters reversed course and marched instead toward the Capitol. Photo by Bela Tapperson.

A protester holds a sign reading “White Silence Kills” during Saturday’s protest at the Austin Police Department Headquarters. Photo by Stella Shenkman.

Police used pepper spray on the protesters, who responded by trying to clean out their eyes with water and in some cases milk that they had brought in case they needed to clean out their eyes after being hit with pepper spray. In this photo, a man washes his eyes with water after apparently being doused with pepper spray. Photo by Bela Tapperson.

A woman is forced over a wall as state troopers force protesters off of the Capitol grounds. Photo by Bela Tapperson.

A protester wearing a facial mask to protect against the coronavirus brandishes a movie line that was originally directed at the fictional Spider-Man but redirected Saturday toward the actual state troopers behind her. Photo by Bela Tapperson.

Protestors and state troopers stare each other down outside the Capitol grounds during Saturday’s protests. Photo by Bela Tapperson.

Protesters congregate around the Austin police headquarters and spread to the surrounding streets, at times blocking traffic on highway I-35. Photo by Stella Shenkman.

In an effort to control crowds and clear the highway, police officers use a sprayed chemical agent and rubber bullets against protesters. Photo by Stella Shenkman.

Protesters set up a makeshift first-aid station underneath the I-35 underpass to treat demonstrators who were hit with rubber bullets or doused with pepper spray for blocking traffic on the I-35 access road. Photo by Bela Tapperson.

A young protester joins other demonstrators in crouching on the ground to avoid the spray of rubber bullets fired by police to disperse the crowd.  Policemen advanced over the grass to the service road where many protesters had congregated and began firing rubber bullets to get them to move out. A few protesters who did not get down fast enough were hit by the non-lethal fire. Photo by Bela Tapperson.

Protester crouch low to the ground to avoid the spray of rubber bullets fired by police to disperse the crowd.  Policemen advanced over the grass to the service road where many protesters had congregated and began firing rubber bullets to get them to move out. The demonstrators could hear the shots pinging off the guard rail they were hiding behind. Photo by Bela Tapperson.

This story was originally published on The Shield Online on May 31, 2020.