A grandstanding city councilman got what he wished for this weekend when the protests he called for in opposing recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, initiatives degenerated into lawlessness and rioting.
In response to increased ICE activity around Austin, officials across the city have been assuring residents that they will fight back against the enforcement of immigration law. At one such event, Councilman Greg Casar gave an inflammatory speech accusing the Trump administration as well as Gov. Abbott of pursuing a political vendetta.
“I believe that ICE is out in public arresting people in order to retaliate against our community for standing up for our values and standing up against the anti-immigrant hysteria of Abbott, Trump, and their ilk,” Casar told the crowd. “ICE actions like these are beyond reprehensible.”
In recent weeks, ICE has been bolstering enforcement efforts by investigating and subsequently arresting residents here illegally for the purpose of deportation. The agency is merely acting in its designated authority to perform its singular function – the enforcement of existing federal law – which has been anemically lackadaisical over the past decade.
The community to which Casar is referring and the location of the subsequent mischief – around the intersection of Rundberg and Lamar – isn’t exactly a paragon of opportunity, safety, or even political efficacy. In fact, the state representative for this region – who is currently under indictment for felony fraud and corruption charges – doesn’t even show up for work.
Hardly a worthy target for political retribution of any sort – but that’s all beside the point. After all, there is (criminal) mischief to be had.
“These are attempts to silence us, these are attempts to strike fear into our hearts,” Casar said in closing. “But we will not be silenced. We will continue to fight.”
That night and the following evening, protesters assembled en masse in the Rundberg/Lamar area, waving Mexican flags and signs bearing obscene sentiments towards Trump and other Republicans. Naturally, these assemblies only served to further the political dialogue in the same predictable, unproductive fashion. Protestors – angered by the vague perception of illegal immigrants and their families as criminals – attempted to make their point by harassing motorists, stalling traffic, and intimidating passersby.
Fortunately, nobody was seriously hurt during the protests, but they serve as even more examples of petulant displays in the capital city. There have already been several other protests relating to immigration enforcement in Austin this year, and it’s only February. If the attitudes of local officials are any indicator, 2017 will continue to be an interesting (and for motorists, inconvenient) year.