‘It’s the right thing to do’: People out cleaning up streets after weekend protests

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Following protests in over the in-custody death of George Floyd and the officer-involved shooting that killed Mike Ramos in Southeast Austin, some people were up early Monday cleaning up the streets of downtown Austin — literally.

Kia Yanna Monroe, one of the protesters, was out picking up trash along with others left behind in areas where protesters assembled.

“I was here protesting on Saturday, and I just noticed that after the protest there’s a lot of garbage, a lot of bottles, a lot of stuff that’s on the ground. Just wanted to come out and clean up a little bit,” she said.

“I think it’s important. I understand why everybody’s out here. I’m part of it, but I also think our city needs to be cleaned too,” she said.

Monroe said it’s “just the right thing to do,” and that other people were out cleaning during the weekend. She said all the violence and looting was hard to see since the protests are supposed to be peaceful.

“It was a little rough being down here cause some people are using the Black Lives Matter in a very negative way, trying to cause more commotion that it needs to be, she said. “It’s supposed to be peaceful protests, and some people turning it into making it become violent which is not the answer.”

Everybody, especially police, she said, needs to sit down and talk about how to move forward.

“Clearly, conversation needs to be had,” she said. “Everybody needs to listen to each other, especially the cops. They way they’re handling it now, I don’t think is the right way cause you are shooting at us, macing us. You are tear-gassing us when all we’re trying to do is peacefully protest and wanting somebody to listen to us.”

Across downtown, on Congress Ave. Kelly Johnson and her daughter Daphne had the same idea.

“I was very supportive of the protests, but I just didn’t like the way the city was left,” Johnson said. 

She runs IREP, an Austin-based junk hauling company that donates items people leave behind to those in need. She and Daphne planned to use their equipment to help haul away trash, as well. However, by the time they got downtown Monday, others like Monroe had already finished most of that work.

“We realized that there was not a lot of trash to pick up, but we saw all the graffiti. And, so, we pivoted,” Johnson said.

She and her daughter picked up some graffiti removal spray and spent the day scrubbing off spray paint in front of businesses.

Seeing it through the eyes of her mom, who runs a small business of her own, Daphne urged people to think about who vandalism and looting is actually hurting.

“I get why people are angry. They have every right to be,” Daphne said. “But when you damage things that have nothing to do with it, like who knows if these people who run this might be totally with you. Damaging their property isn’t going to make it…it just doesn’t help anything. It doesn’t prove a point. It just makes people mad.”

Johnson added that’s especially true in the middle of a pandemic.

“The businesses have suffered so much already, and it’s like they didn’t need this on top of it, you know?”

The mother-daughter pair plans to keep working throughout the week and is inviting others to help.

“Cause Daphne and I, were pretty fit, but there’s only so much we can do by ourselves,” Johnson smiled.

The Johnsons say anyone who would like to help can reach out to them through their company’s contact form.

“We’ll just keep working until we can get this city back to, you know, showing it off again,” Johnson said.

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