When Council Member Kitchen’s “HEAL” initiative passed last week, it created a timeline for racial justice action. By March 4, City Manager Spencer Cronk must return to council with a plan to “disallow” camping in four high-visibility locations throughout the city.
In response to pressure from D5 for Black LIves and other community organizations, CM Kitchen added language directing Cronk to include “strategies not relying on policing or issuance of citations” in his proposals for how to ban camping. Though CM Kitchen personally agreed not to approve police citations for camping, she refused to take camping bans and policing out of the initiative itself. We must continue to speak truth to power: more policing does not equal more safety for Black and Brown Austinites.
Ironically, March is also when the joint city/community Reimagining Public Safety Task Force is expected to make initial recommendations to improve public safety for all communities in Austin. The task force’s guiding values include “divesting from systems that cause harm”—a principle which is clearly contradicted by the HEAL initiative’s camping ban and by Kitchen’s support for a new police academy class this spring,
Your Voice is Crucial
After the deaths of Mike Ramos and George Floyd, the City of Austin committed to addressing the disproportionate impact of policing on communities of color. We must hold CM Kitchen and the rest of the council accountable to their commitment to stop using the police as a default response to social problems.
To this end, D5 for Black Lives is hosting a community meeting on homelessness and racial justice. Mark your calendars for February 23 from 6-7pm. This virtual event will feature panelists from BIPOC-led community organizations on the frontlines of the struggle for a more equitable Austin. Participants will leave with a deeper understanding of the issues and practical ideas for taking effective action.
Yours in struggle,
D5 for Black Lives
New! Debunking Disinformation
Governor Abbott argues that by eliminating the ban on camping, Austin promotes “lawlessness.” Many others have implied that housed people are in danger due to violence by unhoused people. This could not be farther from the truth, if you look at Austin Police Department data. In 2019, 2.8% of violent crime arrests involved an unhoused person as a suspect and a housed person as a victim. By contrast, 4.0% of violent crime arrests involved a housed person as a suspect and an unhoused person as a victim. The overwhelming majority of violent crime arrests, 89.95%, involved a housed person as a suspect.