By Mike Talavera
UPDATE: APD Chief Brian Manley spoke during a virtual press conference Sunday evening to announce that the police had let Garrett’s murderer go free pending further investigation. The police released this killer (without revealing his identity) despite the fact that he himself admitted to them that he had fired first, contrary to rightwing conspiracy theories online. In an insult to what Garrett died protesting, Manley used the shooting as an opportunity to highlight the “good work” of the police, further demonstrating how they are enemies of the people.
Today, the people of Austin are mourning the loss of Garrett Foster, an anti-racist activist who has been a regular at the anti-police protests since the May Uprisings. Last night, a gunman drove into a march in solidarity with Portland in downtown Austin and shot Garrett multiple times from the driver’s seat before speeding away. Garrett was pronounced dead at the hospital hours later.
Livestream video from independent journalist Hiram Garcia shows some demonstrators stop as they were marching up Congress Avenue towards the Austin Police Department (APD) headquarters and start to approach a vehicle which had driven into the march, hitting at least one protester, before gunshots ring out and protesters scattered.
Garrett, a military veteran who had since sided with the people, was legally open carrying a rifle as a volunteer in addition to a small group that was providing security for the march. Another protester who was with Garrett when he approached the car returned fire after the gunman shot Garrett.
Police brutalized protesters enforcing a perimeter around the area where Garrett was shot. Police pushed people back, threatened to make arrests, and mounted police were dispatched. Hours later, the police apprehended the suspected shooter without force. Police have still not released the identity of the murderer.
Last month, Austin police had offered protection to another gunman and son of a police officer, Logan Bucknam, who had tried to ram his vehicle into another protest outside APD headquarters. Bucknam had waved his gun around after protesters surrounded his car and then was briefly taken into an APD garage behind a barrier set up by the police and was released shortly after.
Garrett was the full-time caretaker of his wife Whitney, who is a quadriplegic and a black woman. He had been pushing her wheelchair throughout the march, and she was with him when the shooting occurred. Garrett heroically defended her and those around him with his life. The police did not let Whitney see him in the hospital after he had died.
Garrett and Whitney would regularly cook meals to serve to the homeless under I-35 and had been planning to do a basic necessities drive this coming Wednesday. Garret also understood that the housing inequality in Austin was part of the racist system that he was against, and he and Whitney marched alongside United Neighborhood Defense Movement at their Anti-eviction march at the beginning of July.
Protesters gathered back in front of APD to support Whitney and chanted Garrett’s name and “Fuck the Police!” Protesters shared thoughts about Garrett, emphasizing how he had said that he was willing to die for the movement and how he had died protecting them and his wife.
“The reason we are out here, the reason Garrett was out here, is that Black lives are threatened every single minute in America,” a spokesperson with Mike Ramos Brigade, the organization who led the march, told the Tribune. “We are livid about tonight and how we will no longer see Garrett’s friendly face. We know this comrade would want us to stay strong and continue the fight. We are inspired by his strength and we will not back down from this vigilante attack!”
Austin was not the only scene of reactionary violence last night. In Aurora, Colorado during a similar solidarity protest with Portland which had taken highway I-225, another driver plowed into the march, seriously injuring at least one. Armed protesters there also defended themselves and fired at the driver. Earlier that day, windows were broken at a local courthouse, where fires were also set.
Across the US, protests in solidarity with the ongoing rebellion in Portland took their rage out against the imperialist state in response to the escalating repression of anti-police protests by federal forces. From Providence, Rhode Island, where protesters threw paint and other projectiles at police guarding the local Public Safety complex, to Seattle, Washington, where protesters set fire to a police precinct and an under-construction youth detention center, the people have demonstrated once again how repression breeds resistance.
Overnight, graffiti was spotted in multiple locations in Los Angeles reading “People’s Justice for Garret’s Killer”
Garrett’s sacrifice is not the last to be made in the fight for Black Lives and revolution. US imperialism is mobilizing its forces against the protests and is willing to kill to put down what it sees as an existential threat. Fascists and other reactionaries thrive in this atmosphere of repression, recognizing the further reactionization of the state and committing their own crimes against the people.
In the face of this danger the people will not cower but stand against this injustice like Garrett did. The Mike Ramos Brigade and other groups have called for a vigil tonight at 7pm at the intersection of 4th and Congress, the location where Garret made his sacrifice. It is now more important than ever to support each other, and we implore our readers to donate to Garrett’s widow Whitney here:
Tribune of the People stands with the movement for Black lives, against the police and reactionaries. We mourn our dead while remarking that not all deaths are equal – to die in service of the police is lighter than a feather, to die in service of the people is heavier than a mountain.