Grand Jury indicts 19 Austin police officers over use of excessive force in 2020 protests   

by mcardinal

Matt Bush, FISM News


Almost two full years after racial justice protests related to the George Floyd killing, 19 police officers in Austin, TX were indicted for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon as they attempted to bring peace to the protests. The officers were attempting to quell either a riot or a demonstration, depending on who you ask about what was happening around them.

Fox News reports that the indictment came just “hours after Austin city leaders approved paying $10 million to two people injured by police in the protests, including a college student who suffered brain damage after an officer shot him with a beanbag round.”

Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America party, won office in 2020 after “promising to crackdown on police misconduct.” Garza is following through on his campaign promises of holding police accountable, but many wonder if it is more of a political stunt based on both the timing of the indictment and the number of officers involved.

One of the officers, according to CNN, is Justin Berry, a Republican running for seat in the Texas Representatitves. Berry told CNN that he was previously cleared of wrongdoing by the police department and accused Garza of using his office to influence an election. 

CNN quotes Berry as saying, “The timing is not just suspect, it is obvious. The riot was two years ago, and he times his indictments of officers two weeks before the election…Not one of the officers I have spoken to are worried about a conviction. This case is beyond preposterous.”   

Garza responded to Berry’s accusation by saying, “There are some people in the community and across the state who insist that there must never be accountability for law enforcement if they break the law. Some of them have already suggested that our office’s review of the 2020 protests have been biased and that we are targeting police while letting others off scot-free…That cannot be further from the truth, and it is time to put that nonsense to bed.”

Garza also told journalists, “Our community is safer when our community trusts enforcement. When it believes law enforcement follows that law and protects the people who live here…There cannot be trust if there is no accountability when law enforcement breaks the law.”

The 19 indictments are the highest number of charges brought against officers in a single police department over tactics used during the 2020 racial justice protests. If Garza believes that the community must trust law enforcement, the question must be asked how that trust can be built when 19 officers are being indicted for their actions in what Berry described as a riot, saying, “People throwing Molotov cocktails at us, frozen water bottles, bottles filled with urine, bottles full of gasoline, and they were engaging in criminal activity by obstructing the passage road that goes to the main hospital.”

To make matters more complicated and add ammunition to the claim that Garza was politically motivated, according to Fox News, “George Soros contributed $652,000 to the Texas Justice & Public Safety PAC in the months leading up to the 2020 Travis County DA election, according to campaign finance records. That same PAC spent almost $1 million on digital and mail advertisements to help Garza’s campaign.” On top of that, a local news organization reported that Garza’s office rejected 735% more felony cases over a four-month period compared to the same timeframe a year prior.