On Thursday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott set up a task force to stop street takeovers. This came after car clubs took over several intersections in Austin, the state capital, over the weekend.
“We must send a clear message that these reckless, coordinated criminal events will not be tolerated in Texas,” Abbott said in a statement. “This statewide task force will work closely with local officials and law enforcement to investigate, prosecute, and prevent these dangerous street takeovers.”
Saturday night, car clubs from Austin and other cities in Texas came to the state capital. They drove through intersections and set off fireworks as many people watched the chaos. During the response to the takeover, one police officer was hurt, and several police cars were damaged.
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In the wake of the takeover, the Austin Police Department (APD) has arrested at least seven people and taken guns, methamphetamine, and marijuana from them. The new task force will be led by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), which will “target the organized crime aspect of the street takeovers.”
“These street takeovers put the lives of Texans and Texas law enforcement officers at risk,” DPS Director Steven McCraw said Thursday. “We are seeing fireworks fired at officers in crowds, lasers pointed at aircraft, drivers driving upwards of 130 miles per hour with no lights on in the dark of night — all of it is reckless, and it needs to be stopped.”
Someone wrote on Twitter that his mother, Pam Tiggelaar, saw the whole thing. In the video, fireworks were going off in the middle of the intersection, which caused cars to back up.
Ben Tiggelaar’s post said people are setting off fireworks, blocking off the street, doing donuts, like 500 people, and cops can’t get close. Please read the tweet below:
In Austin now: people setting off fireworks, blocking off the street, doing donuts, like 500 people, cops can’t get close (Lamar and Barton Springs Rd)
Is this a promotional event of some kind you’re sponsoring @girdley ? pic.twitter.com/DfNxmDxQl6
— Ben Tiggelaar 🟠 (@bentigg) February 19, 2023
Council member Zo Qadri called the incidents reckless, among other things. In a statement to CBS, he says:
The events that took place on Saturday night were reckless, irresponsible, and illegal. This will not be tolerated in our city. I’m glad that the officer who was injured that night is doing okay, and I look forward to a complete investigation that holds organizers and participants accountable. Nearly 250 people have died on our roadways in the past two years, and behavior like this will only make the crisis worse. It’s time for serious, community-backed solutions based on education, engineering, and enforcement to ensure our public streets are safe for all Austinites.
The APD said that during these events, people in the crowd threw rocks and bottles at officers and pointed lasers at them. The injured officer didn’t have a severe injury, so they were treated at a local hospital and sent home. Two people were caught trying to get away from the police. APD says that the investigation is ongoing and that more charges could be brought.