Stop encampment sweeps in Austin

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Despite the grave danger posed by the COVID-19 pandemic as it spreads throughout Austin, the Texas DOT will not stop its brutal efforts to displace and terrorize unhoused people living under or near highways. And the City of Austin plans to continue its own similar operations, with only flimsy assurances that it will do so less violently than usual.

The City of Austin has said that it will continue "cleanups" of encampments, but will temporarily allow people's tents to stay in place in light of the pandemic. But even this claim is suspect, as we have often seen the police and contractors be gratuitously cruel regardless of official policy. Meanwhile, TxDOT has pledged that its operations will continue to force people to completely move their shelter and belongings away from where they live, or else have them stolen.

At a time when every public health official is telling people to stay inside and limit their exposure to others, the state's contractors and officers will make our unhoused neighbors tear down their tents and cram their possessions together onto the side of the road. At a time when social distancing is the best way to slow the disease's deadly spread, DPS and contractors will be invading people's personal space to force them to move. The state's failure to distribute COVID-19 information or hygiene supplies to those living outdoors renders its claim to care about public health even more transparently false.

Clusters of people interacting, between contract workers, TxDOT/CoA workers, DPS/APD, and unhoused people, is especially dangerous when at least two of those groups are mostly uninsured and poor. The city and state should provide hand sanitizer, hand washing stations, gloves, and medicine and leave, or not come at all. The city should perform its violet bag/bin voluntary trash collection without infringing on people's personal space.

The ongoing cruelty of the sweeps already imposes danger, trauma and violence onto people on a weekly basis. But considering so many of those affected by sweeps have existing health issues or are of ages most severely affected by COVID-19, the decision to continue the sweeps in the midst of this pandemic is nothing less than the state's deliberate attempt to kill unhoused Austinites.

WE DEMAND AN IMMEDIATE STOP TO THE MURDEROUS TXDOT AND CITY OF AUSTIN ENCAMPMENT SWEEPS

MOREOVER, FOR EMERGENCY COVID-19 SURVIVAL WE DEMAND:

FREE HEALTHCARE: Free testing, treatment, and healthcare for all.

NO WORK: Suspend work obligations. Guarantee food stamps and sick pay for all.

NO PAYING — NO DEBT: Suspend all rent, mortgage, utilities, loans, foreclosures, evictions, and parking enforcement.

FREE THE PRISONERS: End bail for jails, deactivate ICE, release detainees, and stop all sweeps of homeless camps.

HOMES FOR ALL: Open up unoccupied homes to anyone who needs one.

For more info, visit the Stop the Sweeps Austin page