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Austin - The Long Hot Summer

I don't usually watch local news casts. I'm always so agitated by the sensationalism and outrageous ignorance put forth. I get my news from certain unnamed radio programs, newspapers, the Internet and the Daily Show. I try to have an open mind and be non-judgmental. I grew up in an industrial northern city. I have an unremarkable level of education, I'm middleclass but I've been poor and I have left leaning ideologies. I tell you this because of the past 3 days.

Tuesday night, June 19, somehow a local news broadcast ends up on my television.
The lead story - a drunken priest crashes his car into a Smithville diner that had patrons at the time. My husband and I both shake our heads and laugh cynically. Not that we think a car crashing into a diner is funny. It just amuses us that this would be the big story of the night. How provincial.

Wednesday, June 20. I'm taking one of my daily Internet news breaks and in the list of recommended articles I find "Crowd attacks, kills man at Texas Juneteenth festival". The first thought in my apparently not so non-judgmental mind is this probably happened in Dallas or Houston. I click on the link. The AP article proceeds to describe how a Juneteenth festival crowd of 2000-3000 beat a man to death because the car he was riding in struck a little girl. Flashback to Bed-Stuy, East L.A., Bagdad, etc. How do several thousand people beat a man to death?

I look at the by-line - Austin. Austin? WTF? I send the link to a co-worker - did you see this? She hadn't. I go to a local news station website - the lead story is still that drunken priest. I look at the other stories, and there a little further down is the same AP article. I re-read the article. The man killed has a Hispanic name, and the article implies that the Juneteenth festival goers were involved. For those who don't know, Juneteenth is the celebration of the official, albeit late announcement in Texas, of the Emancipation Proclamation, resulting in the freeing of slaves. It is predominately celebrated by the black community. Is this another racially motivated incident? I almost feel sorry for the new police chief.

Thursday, June 21 - Happy Summer Solstice. I open the morning paper and find a front page article about Tuesday's tragedy. There are pictures. I read the article. The story has changed somewhat. Turns out, the Juneteenth crowd was several blocks away. The car that struck the little boy (another error in the story) was turning into an apartment complex that happened to be on the same side of town. When the driver got out of the car to check on the boy, a group descended upon him. When his passenger got out of the car to protect the driver, the group of 2 to 20, turned on him and proceeded to beat him to death. Meanwhile, the driver got back in his car and fled the scene. It appears all the players in this story are Hispanic. What happened to those 2000-3000 black folks that were involved yesterday?

How did a terrible and sad incident involving fewer than 20 or 30 people in a very specific location get twisted into an indictment of several thousand people celebrating freedom in a very large area? Who made that connection in the first place, and more importantly, why?

Additional coverage at: News 8 Austin, Fox Austin, Statesman, and Austinist.

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