AUSTIN (KXAN) — Organizers finalized plans Friday for Saturday’s “Rally Against White Supremacy” at Austin City Hall.
The rally, in response to the violence in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend, will include speakers and musical performances. Bryan Register, one of the organizers, said it’s come together in just the last few days. He started planning Tuesday for the event that will take place Saturday starting at 10 a.m.
Weekend rallies are quite common in Austin — it’s the state capital after all — but after what happened last weekend, this one’s different.
“I never considered myself the protesting type,” Jim Roberts-Miller said.
In his kitchen Friday afternoon, Roberts-Miller finished up his first-ever rally sign; he Googled tips to make a good one before he started. Carefully, with a tape measure and painter’s tape, he stenciled out the words on a piece of foam board: “Cowboys Against Hate.”
“What can I say? After Charlottesville, it suddenly seemed like something people really needed to do,” he said.
Around 1,500 people (as of early Friday evening) planned to join Roberts-Miller on the plaza at City Hall — the mayor among them. Several thousand more expressed interest in being there on a Facebook event page.
“There’s a heightened awareness right now,” Mayor Steve Adler said. Despite the violence in Virginia that sparked Saturday’s Rally Against White Supremacy, city leaders aren’t concerned.
“We’re going to continue to celebrate who we are and to gather together as a community,” Adler said, “because that’s an important thing for us to do.”
Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said Monday the city expected events like this one in response to the events in Charlottesville, in which a 32-year-old woman, Heather Heyer, was killed while counter-protesting a white nationalist rally in the city. A 20-year-old man was arrested and charged with murder after authorities say he intentionally drove his car into the crowd.
Even if opposing groups show up — and neither organizers nor city leaders have seen evidence they plan to — Manley said Friday they’re ready.
“We’ve had that happen in the past,” he said. “We have had rallies on this plaza in front of city hall and we’ve had protesters across the street on the esplanade protesting against them.”
“Intimidation is what these sort of groups are really after,” Roberts-Miller said, which is why he won’t be deterred from standing up to hate. “You can’t let yourself be scared. You just got to go out there and speak your mind.”
The rally comes as Adler announced Friday the city is joining mayors from more than 200 others to abide by the Mayors’ Compact to Combat Hate, Extremism and Bigotry. The 10-point plan, a partnership between the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Anti-Defamation League, aims to strengthen opposition to hate and intolerance in cities across the country.