An Austin police officer charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for his actions during the George Floyd protests of 2020 has claimed that the prosecution is politically motivated, and the ‘woke’ District Attorney is trying to ‘de-police’ the city through trumped-up cases.
Justin Berry, a 14-year veteran of the force, was one of 19 officers indicted on Thursday.
Berry, who is running as a Republican for election to the House in Texas, with the primary to be held on March 1, said that the Travis County top prosecutor, Jose Garza – a member of the Democratic Socialists of America party backed by funds from George Soros – has a vendetta against police.
‘This has nothing to do with justice, has nothing do with any wrongdoing,’ Berry told Fox News.
‘This is simply about politics and a political agenda that has taken place with these radical liberal district attorneys.
‘If they can’t defund us and get rid of us that way – now they’re going to try and de-police us by sending us to prison and indicting us.’
Justin Berry, an Austin police officer who is running for the Texas House as a Republican, was among 19 police officers indicted last week for excessive use of force during the George Floyd protests. Berry told Fox News the charges were politically motivated
Protesters are seen in Austin on July 6, 2020. The protests in response to the May 2020 killing of George Floyd by a white policeman in Minneapolis frequently turned violent
Protesters confront police in Austin on June 4, 2020
Jose Garza was elected on a progressive platform as Travis County DA, with campaign donations from George Soros, and took over in January 2021
Garza’s move is among the most indictments against a single police department in the US over tactics used by officers during the widespread protests — methods that led to the resignation or ouster of several police chiefs across the country.
The indictments last week came hours after Austin city leaders approved paying $10 million to two people injured by police in the protests, including a college student who suffered brain damage after an officer shot him with a beanbag round.
Berry has insisted that the force used to control the demonstrations was proportionate.
‘We were responding to a riot,’ Berry told Fox News.
‘People throwing Molotov cocktails at us, frozen water bottles, bottles filled with urine, bottles full of gasoline, and they were engaging in criminal activity by obstructing the passage road that goes to the main hospital.
‘Our actions were not unlawful by any means at all.’
Berry said that the indictments were part of a wider war on law enforcement.
A protester confronts a police officer in Austin on May 30, 2020 – five days after George Floyd was killed
Protesters are seen marching towards the Texas state capital in Austin on June 7, 2020
Austin police keep watch as demonstrators gather on June 4, 2020
Garza, who was elected on a platform of reassessing prosecution for low-level offenses, was backed in his campaign by Soros, founder of the progressive Open Society Foundations.
Soros contributed $652,000 to the Texas Justice & Public Safety PAC in the months leading up to the 2020 Travis County DA election, according to campaign finance records obtained by Fox.
That same PAC spent almost $1 million on digital and mail advertisements to help Garza’s campaign.
Berry said that Garza’s policies were causing a rise in crime in the city.
‘Look at our homicide rates,’ Berry said. ‘They’re through the roof right now.
‘Look at anywhere George Soros has planted one of his DAs in there.
‘It’s gone to chaos and destruction.’
Garza last week insisted the charges were justified, saying: ‘Our community is safer when our community trusts enforcement. When it believes law enforcement follows that law and protects the people who live here.
‘There cannot be trust if there is no accountability when law enforcement breaks the law.’
Austin Police Department has faced scrutiny in recent years after nearly a third of their budget was cut or reallocated in August 2020.
The Austin City Council restored police funding the next year after new state legislation threatened cities with penalties for reducing law-enforcement funding.
Berry is seen along the US-Mexico border. He is campaigning ahead of a Republican primary on March 1
Austin Chief of Police Joseph Chacon said he respects the grand jury process but was ‘extremely disappointed’ to hear the district attorney announce indictments of his officers.
Chacon stressed that his command staff had prepared officers to face hundreds of people, when thousands actually showed up to protests.
‘I am not aware of any conduct, that given the circumstances that the officers were working under, would rise to the level of a criminal violation by these officers,’ Chacon said.
But beanbag rounds fired by officers did not always perform ‘in the manner anticipated,’ Chacon said, and his agency now prohibits the use of ‘less lethal munitions in crowd-control situations.’
Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday called the move ‘devastating’ for law enforcement in the city, but also said he’s confident that no officer will be convicted.
He, like Berry, criticized Garza, calling the investigation politically motivated.
‘DA Garza ran on a platform to indict police officers and has not missed the opportunity to ruin lives and careers simply to fulfill a campaign promise,’ Casaday said.
Garza said his office prosecutes anybody who causes harm ‘regardless of who causes it.’
Berry was unimpressed.
‘This war on policing is real,’ Berry said. ‘They couldn’t get away with defunding us, so now they’re trying to indict us.’