Memorandum No. 4
Per “Civil Order No. 1”, I have composed this memorandum to conduct an after action review (AAR) of the Black Austin Rally and March for Black Lives (Largey), and Black Queer Lives Matter ATX Rally and PEACE in Austin Candlelight Vigil. This memorandum attempts to accomplish three tasks: noteworthy occurrences of both events, why did I join, and how could I have participated differently (or wherever appropriate, mention any details worthy of sustainment).
Black Austin Rally and March for Black Lives
The Austin Justice Coalition (AJC) organized “Black Austin Rally and March for Black Lives”. The rally began at the Huston-Tillotson University, a private historically black college in Austin, Texas. The Austin chapter of Indivisible—a coalition of volunteers working to “resist the GOPs agenda, elect local champions, and fight for progressive policies”—supported the event. (Indivisible Austin) The AJC has been active in community organizing for several years. (Austin Justice Coalition) Thousands of people marched to the state capital of Texas while chanting, “No justice, no peace,” among other statements. From my point of view, the protest, which lasted from 1 to 5 p.m. on June 7, was peaceful. Numerous volunteers attended the march prepared by distributing bottled water and sustenance in independent teams. Other volunteers roamed about the crowd dispatching splashes of hand sanitizer.
Once I arrived at the state capital, I noticed that state security forces had closed the gateway leading to the legislative building. The prospect of security forces brandishing heavy protective gears and pouches holding gasmasks did not stoke within me confidence for the government of Texas. Iron barrier aside, the bodily division between the professionals sworn to defend and protect the public versus the people peacefully congregating and exercising their constitutional right to freedom of expression, appeared to me profoundly tragic. Such a sight indicated to me the leaders of Texas were not listening to the mass demonstrators. Neither the press nor I detected any government officials address the organizers of the march. I can only assume the absence of initiative by Texan politicians to engage as their dismissing the protests as a passing nuisance, and not as a credible method of disruption.
However, should the Texan political establishment not find behooving that the only effective option to avert a potential economic or political disturbance from the masses is to serve justice? In this case, to exact reparation for the murder of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). Texas would not have had to experience the fierce outcry of her people if she had been more critical of the status quo sooner. Dissenters will communicate their demands for change with increasing fervor, and the longer the government takes to redress grievances, the more catastrophic the conflict will be. Additionally, a prolonged battle of wills between the people and police force will harm the United States’ standing with other advanced democracies and future generations of free thinkers.
Black Queer Lives Matter ATX Rally and PEACE in Austin Candlelight Vigil
A recently formed organization, the Black Queer Lives Matter ATX met at the state capital entrance. The congregation then marched to the Austin Police Department (APD) headquarters to join a candlelight vigil with PEACE in Austin (PIA), another recently found community organization. With the march and vigil combined, the event lasted from 7 to 10 p.m. on June 12; two hundred (approximately) people had gathered for the occasion. The Black Queer Lives Matter ATX congregated on the four-year-anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. A gunman took the lives of 49 patrons at a popular gay nightclub and wounded more than 50 people. On that same day, news media reported the Trump administration managed to define the Affordable Care Act of 2010 does not legally protect transgender people, insisting discrimination language in Obamacare does not include gender identity. Current events and June being the de facto month of Pride or the Queer Liberation Movement added importance of the Black Queer Lives Matter ATX Rally.
The Black Queer Lives Matter ATX Rally had lined up designated speakers to present messages of solidarity to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) cause and recognize the deaths of two black transwomen: Riah Milton and Dominique “Rem’mie Fells. (Kelly) According to the Facebook event page, two transwomen of color, Natalie Sanders and Ms. Amazing Head, organized the rally. (Sullivan) Some of the other presenters included Keelan Moses and Ryan Thaliono. At a couple of moments, one of the attendees began shouting over the speakers, but coordinators reclaimed control of the situation. The interaction prompted me to remember that without effective leadership, entities with nefarious intentions can infiltrate, and then hijack these protests.
The candlelight vigil took place in front of the main entrance of APD. In memory of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man killed by the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), marchers took a moment of silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds—the length of time an MPD officer had his knee on Floyd’s neck before dying. I knelt on the pavement road for those few minutes, and felt the duration was sobering.
WHY DID I JOIN
To reference one of the resolution items in “Civil Order No. 1”: I have decided, whenever possible, I will protest authoritarianism and fascism. As a citizen of these United States, I have a moral obligation to defend and fight for the rights of every person in this country, and by extension, every person in this existence.
IMPROVEMENT AND / OR SUSTAINMENT
Two observations come to mind: I admire the involvement of the common people uniting and calling for equality, equity, and justice. I appreciate the involvement of both active and part-time journalists recording the events.
I limit my capacity to express criticism because my role as an ally to the BLM movement is supportive, not directive. Having described my stance, I offer my assistance by providing the following counsel: when admonishing mass media or the fourth estate, social activists should take a nuanced approach. Most reporters, especially local ones, work tirelessly to disseminate the most up-to-date facts on grassroots activities. Distancing or discrediting them will hurt the momentum of these social movements. Instead, to clarify their overall message, community leaders should proactively include members of the press.
Additionally, leaders should prepare the articulation of their grief to include specific messages that function to challenge the comforts experienced by those who legally exercise violence. If assigned the opportunity, I would communicate the following notice to the police, verbatim:
The police is a deeply flawed institution. The remedy to their failures is a systemic overhaul: drastic redistribution of government funds, and reprioritizing service over state control.
The efforts of the police to maintain order is not equivalent to maintaining peace. The kind of peace they preserve is inauthentic or disingenuous when the means to arrive at such a condition involves harming civilians who are exerting their constitutional rights.
Finally, no amount of weaponry can intimidate or manipulate the will of the people; and the police are extremely well-equipped.
Austin Justice Coalition. “Our Vision and Mission”. n.d. austinjustice.org . 6 July 2020.
Indivisible Austin. “Black Austin Rally & March For Black Lives #JusticeForThemAll”. Austin, 5 June 2020. indivisbleaustin.com.
Kelly, Cara. “Two Black transgender women were killed last week, thousands showed up to protest”. 15 June 2020. USA Today.
Largey, Matt. “Thousands Rally In Austin For Economic Justice And An End To Police Violence”. Austin, 8 June 2020. KUT 90.5, Austin’s National Public Radio (NPR) station.
Sullivan, Beth. “Queer Weekend of Action for Black Lives: Rally, march celebrates Austin’s Black queer and trans communities”. Austin, 25 June 2020. Austin Chronicle.