By Josefina Morales, with contributions from David Martinez
On Monday morning, the families of Alex Gonzales Jr. and Garrett Foster held a press conference to raise the demands for People’s Justice for their loved ones, followed by a five-mile march from the Riverside neighborhood to the site of Garrett’s murder by a reactionary in downtown Austin. During the march, the group fended off an attack from a civilian reactionary, and later at the site of Garrett’s memorial, Austin police attacked his widow Whitney, pushing her out of her wheelchair and into the street, then arresting her caretaker.
The day began with the press conference at the site of the police murder of Alex Jr. in East Austin, where the families and their supporters made several demands, namely for the arrests and convictions of Austin Police Officers Gabriel Gutierrez and Luis Serrato—the killers of Alex Gonzales Jr., and US Army Sergeant Daniel Perry – the killer of Garrett Foster. They demanded that the murderers be denied cash bail and their crimes face prosecution and punishment.
The families raised the call for unity among all people fighting for justice for the victims of the police and reactionaries, including Mike Ramos and Javier Ambler. An organizer read a statement sent by Ambler’s sister Kimberly, which stated, “Javier Ambler was a loving human, his life was taken for a TV show. His life was more than a TV show.”
Garrett’s widow, Whitney, recorded a speech which was played for the community members and media gathered at the site. She recounted the events of the night of his murder, saying that APD denied her access to Garrett in the hospital and stole his phone and house keys. She said that she found out that Garrett died an hour after Austin police had already tweeted the information.
She revealed that she has still not received an autopsy report, and that the detective in charge of the case has not moved the investigation into Daniel Perry forward. The audience wept as she described how she has been in hiding, wearing a bulletproof vest in response to the death threats she has received from Daniel Perry and other reactionaries. She commented on Garrett’s character, who was well known locally for his dedication to the peoples’ struggles against racist police brutality and repression.
“The Garrett that people are talking about in the news is not the Garrett that I knew,” she said “The Garrett I knew was quiet, unless it was to stand up for the rights of others[…]we both wanted to do what we could, he pushed me for hours in the sun and was with me every step of the way.”
Liz Gonzales (Alex Jr.’s mother), and his sister delivered a militant speech, addressing the police directly: “They’re gonna pay! What they did to me, ’cause I’m hurting, I’m still hurting and it’s not gonna go away until I get justice for my son…I’m coming out to y’all, Gutierrez and Serrato, you messed with the wrong family, and I’m not going to shut up. We’re doing this every month until we get results.”
The press conference was followed by a march to Mike Ramos’ memorial, only blocks away from the site of Alex Jr.’s killing. The activists and supporters then marched west towards downtown, with Whitney leading the way to Garrett’s memorial nearly five miles away.
As the march proceeded down Riverside Dr., Austin Beaty, a known reactionary who has harassed revolutionary and progressive events in the past, drove his motorcycle up to the march in order to antagonize the crowd. Members of the crowd began to confront Beaty, who pulled off the road as his motorcycle stalled.
As marchers were proceding away from Beaty, he ran and charged at marchers, who defended themselves from his attack. Following the encounter, Beaty posted pictures of himself on social media with blood running down his forehead. No marchers were reported injured.
Soon after, the police began to follow and attempt to intimidate the march, which eventually arrived to its destination at 4th St. and Congress Ave., the site of Garrett’s memorial.
Nearing the event’s conclusion, Austin police stole a banner commemorating Garrett that had been set down by activists. In response, Whitney confronted the officers, demanding they return the banner. Police threatened Whitney with arrest, then proceeded to arrest her caretaker. One of the officers violently grabbed Whitney’s wheelchair to move her, pushing out of her chair and onto the street.
The crowd began to agitate against the officers, outraged by their treatment of Whitney and her caretaker. They eventually departed and some of the group went to the Travis County Jail to await the release of the arrested protester.
Liz Gonzales told Tribune the day’s events were inspiring and gave her optimism for the struggle. “It was good and it felt like a weight had been taken off my shoulders, I am glad to have heard the demands[…]I am so happy to get into the streets and chant. I liked yelling out people’s names. It’s not just about my son, but everyone.”
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