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Police brutality in Texas

A weekend of protest and mourning: George Floyd’s death spurs demonstrations in Texas cities

Floyd, who was raised in Houston's Third Ward, was killed in Minneapolis by police. Officer Derek Chauvin has been fired, and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Rallies and protests are happening all over the nation, including in several Texas cities.

Protesters gather south of the Capitol building in Austin on Sunday, May 31, 2020.

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

Texans protested in Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Fort Worth throughout the weekend, spurred by the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed in Minneapolis police custody Monday. Floyd had been a longtime resident of Houston's Third Ward.

Footage from a now-viral video showed that Floyd died after a white officer kneeled on his neck long past the point when he lost consciousness. Floyd was handcuffed and in police custody in Minneapolis when officer Derek Chauvin put him into the chokehold. Chauvin has been fired from the Minneapolis force and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Three other police officers shown in the video alongside Chauvin were also fired.

On Sunday, Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster for Texas in response to the demonstrations across the state. The move allowed Abbott to designate federal law enforcement officers to perform the duties of peace officers in Texas. San Antonio and Dallas instituted curfews over the weekend.

Abbott, who has denounced Floyd’s death as “a consequence of poor police work,” said Saturday that more than 1,500 Texas Department of Public Safety officers had been dispatched to cities with protests. “As Texans exercise their First Amendment rights, it is imperative that order is maintained and private property is protected,” he said in a statement. He later said he was also activating the Texas National Guard to respond to protest violence.

In Austin, protesters carried signs and chanted slogans about Mike Ramos, an unarmed man who was shot to death by police last month. Austin Mayor Steve Adler said this month that he was “very disturbed” to see spectator video where “Ramos does not appear to threaten but ends up dead,” according to the Austin-American Statesman.

On Sunday, Ramos’ mother, Brenda Ramos, spoke from the southeast Austin apartment complex where her son was shot and killed by a police officer. She called for Austin Police Officer Christopher Taylor, who shot Michael Ramos, to be punished.

“I’m not getting any answers,” Brenda Ramos said, according to a KVUE news feed. “Why hasn’t Officer Taylor been fired? Why hasn’t Officer Taylor at least been suspended?” (The case will be presented to a grand jury, Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore said, according to the American-Statesman.)

Brenda Ramos also urged people not to escalate protests to violence, saying she wants “peace and quiet and respect” for her son and her family.

Over the weekend, photographers Eddie Gaspar and Miguel Gutierrez Jr. were in Austin to document the demonstrations there, which started at the downtown police headquarters and moved onto Interstate 35, blocking traffic for more than an hour.

Austin police used bean bag rounds and pepper spray during the protests, and news footage showed people standing away from traffic and others holding only signs being hit.

"While most of the demonstrations have been peaceful, some protesters have thrown rocks, bricks, eggs, bottles and Molotov cocktails," an Austin Police Department spokesperson told The Texas Tribune in an email. "They also attempted to take over areas of I-35 yesterday. In response, APD has utilized less lethal (bean bag) rounds and OC spray."

Smaller protests, as well as clashes between crowds and Austin police, continued into the night.

At one point, demonstrators raised their hands and chanted, “Don’t shoot!” as officers fired tear gas and rubber bullets.

People broke into a downtown store as some demonstrators worked to stop the damage, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Some set fires and threw fireworks while firefighters worked to extinguish them. One protester used a blanket to put out a small blaze, the Statesman reported.

“That’s a private citizen’s car,” he told the paper. “That has nothing to do with the police. We can have justice and peace.”

Arms raised, protesters face off with police in downtown Austin on May 31, 2020.
Protesters gather in Austin on May 31, 2020.
A protester sits outside an entrance to City Hall in Austin on May 31, 2020.
A protester holds a sign at a rally for George Floyd and Mike Ramos at Austin Police headquarters on May 30, 2020.
Graffiti on the Austin Police headquarters during the George Floyd protest on May 30, 2020.
A protester walks in front of a burning car while a group of people observe. Protesters set the car on fire underneath Inter…
Austin police officers look towards protesters after firing tear gas at the crowd. Protesters would run under the Interstate…
Austin police officers stand on Interstate 35 and watch protesters on the frontage road. Police officers would occasionally …
Police officers on horseback approach a crowd gathered to protest the deaths of George Floyd and Mike Ramos, in Austin on Ma…
A crowd gathered to protest the deaths of George Floyd and Mike Ramos raise their hands in downtown Austin on May 30, 2020.
Protesters marched onto Interstate 35 and blocked traffic during a protest near downtown Austin.
A protester is sprayed in the face with a liquid during a rally in downtown Austin. Austin Police officers sprayed pepper sp…
A protester stares down a police officer during a march near downtown Austin. The group gathered to oppose the recents death…

On Friday, protests took place at Houston City Hall. Photographer Pu Ying Huang was there to document.

John Morrison, a community activist, speaks at a Black Lives Matter rally for George Floyd at Houston City Hall. May 29, 202…
Protesters gathered at a rally for George Floyd in Houston. Floyd, a former Houston resident, was killed in Minneapolis poli…
Protesters gathered at Houston City Hall in memory of George Floyd, an African American man who was killed during an arrest …
Alea Rolison wears a mask that reads, "I can't breathe,” at a rally for George Floyd in Houston, Texas.
Protesters gathered at a rally for George Floyd in Houston. Floyd, a former Houston resident, was killed by a white police o…

In Dallas, photographer Shelby Tauber captured scenes from what organizers described as a march and solidarity rally for Floyd and for Breonna Taylor. The march started outside the downtown police headquarters.

Dallas Police tactical officers stand amongst a cloud of tear gas and smoke after they fired it at protesters during a march…
Protesters run away as Dallas police officers launch tear gas after a confrontation during a rally for George Floyd on May 2…
A protester covered in milk livestreams himself while Dallas Police tactical officers fire rounds of tear gas during a march…
Protesters march in Dallas in memory of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor on May 29, 2019.
Protesters confront a line of Dallas police officers at a march for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in Dallas on May 29, 201…
Protesters gathered for a memorial rally for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in Dallas on May 29, 2019.

Alex Samuels and Clare Proctor contributed reporting.

Disclosure: Austin Mayor Steve Adler, a former Texas Tribune board chairman, has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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