Protesters clashed at the Capitol Saturday afternoon shutting down 11th Street and part of Congress Avenue.
About a dozen people with a “White Lives Matter” group and hundreds who were protesting their message had to be separated by state police in riot gear.
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The protest started just after an African American monument dedication ceremony ended.
“We planned this protest over a month ago. We did not find out about that monument until about a week to ten days ago when we needed a permit,” said Ken Reed, a spokesperson for White Lives Matter.
Many feel the timing of the White Lives Matter protest was a little too convenient and say the group itself is spouting racist rhetoric.
“We’re out here to send the message that racism and hate aren’t productive and it’s not going to get anybody anywhere,” said Morgan Anderson who was not with any particular group at the protests.
“It’s not what they’re saying. They’re showing what they are and simple and plain it’s racism. And it has to be denied. It has to be stopped and what we’re telling them is, in Austin, we’re not having it,” said Terrance Anderson who was also at the protest.
“They are absolutely wrong. All we’re asking for is white lives matter. That’s all we’re doing. All we’re asking for is equal application of the hate crime law. Is equality hate? Can Black Lives Matter get out there and promote their rights and it’s okay, but we’re a hate group?” Reed said.
The White Lives Matter protestors, openly carrying rifles and some even showing swastika tattoos, were outnumbered by the hundreds. Their voices were almost silenced by the chants of those who disagree with their cause.
“The anti-fascists, communist people here that are screaming, ‘hang the Nazis’ and all that kind of stuff is counterproductive. They’re just as bad as white lives matter people,” said David Taylor who was at the protest with a handful of people to encourage tolerance.
“We need to come together as a species, that’s the only way we’re going to survive is by coming together and loving each other and being compassionate with each other,” Taylor added.
During the four hour protest, state police, some on horseback and some on foot, had to separate the two groups to keep the peace. Still, eight people were arrested. Their charges range from interference with public duty, assault, disorderly conduct and evading arrest, but, because of a massive police presence, there were no major injuries.
Around 3 p.m. police escorted White Lives Matter protesters to their vehicles so they could leave the area without incident.