AUSTIN: Mass Arrests of Working Women’s Day Procession Shocks Neighborhood

Photo: Member of International Working Women’s Day procession holds sign reading, “Organize Working Women!” as police make arrests.

By Dmitri Sans

On Sunday afternoon, an International Working Women’s Day (IWWD) procession in honor of working women and victims of sexist violence took the streets of Montopolis, a neighborhood that was the home of Veneranda Martinez-Gutierrez, a working mother who was killed by her estranged husband late last year. In response to the march, the Austin Police Department (APD) employed excessive use of force, encircling and then arresting almost the entire group, often brutally, including some photographers. The ruthless crackdown by the state against the women organizers and activists was shocking to those from the neighborhood who had gathered to watch.

“It wasn’t right for [the police] to do that,” said one woman named Melinda. “They didn’t even give people a chance to move over. Cops just started pulling people to the side, dragging them.”

The procession, led by revolutionary organization Popular Women’s Movement (PWM), was surrounded by police officers on bikes shortly after it started, moving it onto the sidewalk in front of the local Dollar Tree. One officer then yelled, “Put them against the wall!” The gang of police pushed the crowd towards the store while at the same time pulling some participants away, slamming them to the ground and handcuffing them.

As they were being arrested, the activists defiantly chanted, “One Solution! Revolution!” and “Abusive Pigs Deserve to Die! Women Hold Up Half the Sky!”

The small march had passed by the weekly pulga (flea market) held on the corner of Montopolis Drive and Porter Street as onlookers followed from the sidewalk. As soon as the arrests began, people pulled out their phones and expressed dismay and alarm at what was happening, with some denouncing to the police as “criminals.”

“They weren’t doing nothing but [marching] for women’s rights,” said a man named Billy. “This is uncalled for right here.”

In addition to organizing in support of Veneranda’s family, who endorsed the IWWD procession, PWM has led campaigns over the past year against the rampant abusive tendencies at APD, holding protests of child molester Lieutenant Dustin Lee and sexual abuser Assistant Chief Jason Dusterhoft.

“The police protect the ruling class! They talk all day long about freedom and democracy, but we know the working class does not have freedom [or] democracy!” one masked activist yelled as the police closed in on those remaining from the procession. “We are not discouraged by this repression! The fact that there are so many police officers out here shows that what we are doing is a threat to them!”

Susana Almanza, director of nonprofit PODER and a Montopolis resident, posted on social media decrying the mass arrests. “Montopolis had never witness[ed] so many police in cars, SUV’s and bicycles,” she said. “Most Montopolis residents have witness[ed] or [experienced] police oppression, police brutality & police profiling.”

Incendiary has included principled criticisms of Almanza in our past articles, but her response and that of others illustrate the community’s recognition of the police’s role as an enemy of the working class and organized resistance.

Banners hung outside a Montopolis resident’s home in support of the IWWD march

The day before the march, another Montopolis community member lent the fence in front of her home to hang two Spanish banners in Montopolis to promote the action. The banners translate to: “Unleash the Fury of Women as a Mighty Force for Revolution! Honor Veneranda” and “International Working Women’s Day March, Sunday March 8, 2pm, Montopolis Neighborhood Park.”

Montopolis, a historically black area with a large Mexican immigrant population, is one of the poorest parts of Austin that is accustomed to a police presence bent on repression. What is less common to see there is a woman’s march organized on the basis of proletarian ideology, the extreme reaction of the state revealing how much they are threatened by working women organizing in the interests of their class.

The reactionary state’s brutal attack on revolutionary women calls for deep solidarity with the revolutionaries and community members who were targeted for simply celebrating an international working class holiday. Incendiary encourages our readers to donate to the comrades’ legal fund and financial support here:

Graffiti seen in Austin prior to International Working Women’s Day