Chas Moore, executive director of the Austin Justice Coalition, says he doesn’t condone or criticize protesters’ actions in Austin over the weekend.
Founder of the racial justice group, Moore said during a Facebook Live conversation with Austin Mayor Steve Adler on Monday that he understands some people felt they needed to express their anger and frustration by taking over I-35 or vandalizing buildings.
“These things can be replaced,” Moore said. “We can paint over a Starbucks window, we can paint over the graffiti at APD headquarters … but we can’t bring back a life. That’s something that’s irreplaceable.”
Watch the conversation below:
People marched in Austin over the weekend, demanding justice for black people killed by police in America, including George Floyd in Minneapolis and Mike Ramos in Austin. Protesters blocked I-35 and graffitied buildings. Businesses were also looted.
AJC and Black Lives Matter had planned a rally on Sunday for people who wanted to protest peacefully, but Moore announced its cancellation a couple hours before it was set to begin, saying he didn’t feel he could guarantee participants’ safety.
“Not saying every black person wanted to peacefully protest, but I know there was a large number of people that did want to, and we wanted to provide that space,” he said. “But as Saturday progressed, it was almost as if the clouds began to fall and the sun began to fall. The tensions rose and things were escalating and things got out of hand.”
Thousands of people still protested and marched on Sunday, traveling from the Capitol to City Hall, chanting “black lives matter” and “no justice, no peace.” Officers used tear gas, smoke and beanbag guns to get protesters off I-35.
Police fired the “less lethal” beanbag guns at various points throughout the weekend, leaving some injured. Austin Police Chief Brian Manley confirmed in a news conference Monday a 20-year-old black man is in critical condition after being hit with this ammunition Sunday night. He also confirmed a Latino teenager and a pregnant woman were injured after being hit by beanbag rounds.
Moore told Adler on Monday he feels racism in Austin takes several forms. Some of it is within the police department, which has resulted in wrongful murders, he said. Another aspect is more subtle.
“It’s not people calling you the ‘N-word’ on a daily basis,” he said. “It’s the little microaggressions of maybe … not being able to climb up the corporate ladder or not being able to go back and live in the neighborhood that was literally once deemed the black neighborhood.”
He said he feels Austin is trying to be better and having “courageous conversations” about racism.
“But we have a long way to go,” he said. “Austin has a long way to go to make sure that black people and other people of color and marginalized communities feel safe here.”