To City Manager Cronk, Mayor Adler, and members of Austin City Council:

My name is Nathan Ryan. I am writing to you in my personal capacity as a resident of Austin, Texas, District 2.

Whether it is homelessness, incarceration, housing, income level, home ownership, likelihood of dying from COVID-19, maternal mortality or police brutality, Black Americans are disproportionately on the least-forgiving end of those spectrums, their communities most greatly affected since slavery reached the North American continent over 400 years ago in 1619. These outcomes are systemic.

What has prompted this current outcry is recent a series of horrific murders of Americans at the hands of the police — from George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and Mike Ramos here in Austin.

A lot of folks are rightly concerned about the violence they’ve seen at these protests. I don’t believe I know a single person who is in favor of a riot or looting, whether they agree with the aims of the protest or not.

But neither do I believe the responsibility of modeling nonviolence rests on the citizenry. The responsibility of modeling nonviolence rests on the state. And constant escalation by the state — APD, specifically — killing unarmed citizens in Austin, tear gassing, and shooting peaceful protestors with bean bag guns or rubber bullets, will, at times, I believe, regrettably but understandably provoke further escalation from otherwise peaceful citizens.

At testimony last week, the head of the Austin Police Association said he would never accept any change that would make his officers unsafe. I wouldn’t expect anything less than that, and I agree. Respectfully, however, I would submit that the thing that escalates tension and results in violence often starts with the actions of the officer, and, again, it is on APD to deescalate — it is the state’s responsibility to model and promote nonviolence.

Without public confidence that deescalation and a very real change in culture can happen under current leadership, I’d like to add my name to the growing list of Austinites asking that we see a change in leadership at APD, encourage adoption of the remaining #8CantWait policies for police conduct, and divert funds from the massive budget that APD has towards affordable housing, public health, and other investments to help improve quality of life for all Austinites.

This is Austin, Texas. The most creative, friendly, community-focused, forward-thinking city in the world. Together, with all voices at the table, we must lead to reimagine policing and reimagine enforcement to keep our city safe in a way that allows us to see and celebrate each other’s humanity and solve the root of our problems as well as the symptoms.

Thank you,
Nate

People person, husband, friend 🤟 CEO, @blueskyprtnrs ; co-founder, @ourgoodpolitics ; board, #LBJFutureForum; commissioner, ATX; hot takes, my own

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