Austin, TX – An illegal street race and planned takeover of Austin’s streets left at least one police officer injured after rioters jumped on police cars, shot fireworks at officers, and terrified nearby drivers caught in traffic.
The incident began shortly before 10 p.m. on Feb. 18 near the intersection of Barton Springs Road and South Lamar Boulevard, KEYE reported.
Witnesses said the street takeover appeared to be well-organized and that approximately 500 participants quickly blocked traffic, trapping drivers who were at nearby stoplights throughout the chaotic incident.
The chaos went on for more than an hour, KEYE reported.
It’s been about 20 minutes since the first cars arrived to block off the intersection pic.twitter.com/l8yLqCVKN6
— Allie Morris 🌟 (@MorrisReports) February 19, 2023
Videos of the scene posted to social media showed vehicles drifting in the center of the intersection while fireworks erupted around them.
Drivers caught in traffic at the intersection look on in horror as law enforcement officers moved into try to shut down the illegal street takeover.
Participants in the mele surrounded police cars and banged and jumped on the hoods of the cars as videos showed the wildly-outnumbered officers attempted to back out of the chaos, KEYE reported.
Overnight in #Austin, Texas, car drifters & spectators took over the streets & forced responding police to retreat. pic.twitter.com/aZ7zYBbb0U
— Andy Ngô 🏳️🌈 (@MrAndyNgo) February 19, 2023
Equity in Austin… pic.twitter.com/YFVeRBA2qh
— @amuse (@amuse) February 20, 2023
In Austin now: people setting off fireworks, blocking off the street, doing donuts, like 500 people, cops can’t get close (Lamar and Barton Springs Rd)
Is this a promotional event of some kind you’re sponsoring @girdley ? pic.twitter.com/DfNxmDxQl6
— Ben Tiggelaar 🟠 (@bentigg) February 19, 2023
Video also showed that participants set fire to sections of the street and drifted vehicles through the flames, resulting in three people being set on fire.
Multiple people were caught on fire last night during the takeover of Austin streets.https://t.co/dT427CIqSq pic.twitter.com/eesH8bTlHF
— johnnyk2000 (@johnnyk20001) February 19, 2023
Residents and business owners in the area were angry about the chaos, KEYE reported.
“Fireworks going off, there were people standing out on the middle of the street trying to grab the cars, hanging onto the cars as they’re spinning, getting thrown from the cars, people hanging out the window with flags,” Barton Springs Saloon property manager William Rabel said. “You gotta deter this somehow and if not, it’s anarchy.”
Witness Mike Trevino said the tire screeching, engines revving, and fireworks were blasting for nearly an hour before things got shut down, KEYE reported.
“You could hear the cars revving up and stuff, and I heard a lot of honking,” Trevino explained. “They were doing donuts for like 50 minutes almost, and they shut down Barton Springs driving down both lanes one way, so no one could through, and it shut down Lamar, and all of that.”
The Austin Police Department (APD) has said very little about the incident other than to announced that an officer was injured, KEYE reported.
🚨APD is investigating a number of “street racing incidents” across Austin tonight. The department wants to reiterate this behavior is reckless & poses significant risks and dangers to the public. APD remains committed to enforcing the law and keeping our community safe.🚨
— Austin Police Department (@Austin_Police) February 19, 2023
“The department wants to reiterate this behavior is reckless & poses significant risks and dangers to the public. APD remains committed to enforcing the law and keeping our community safe,” the department tweeted.
But the police union blamed lawmakers for letting the chaos to erupt, KEYE reported.
“Austin policy makers are directly responsible for the overall safety of their citizens & visitors,” the Austin Police Association tweeted. “Looks like they failed to make the right decisions & continue to defund, destroy, & demoralize public safety. Austin was one of the safest cities, NOT anymore.”