Anti-Semitic banners displayed in Austin lead to efforts to improve the city’s response to hatred

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Anti-Semitic signs that have been on display in Austin for the past few days have some members of the local community worried about their safety and are looking for support.

City Councilman Alison Alter, who along with other leaders has spoken out about recent events, is now writing a resolution condemning these actions and instructing the mayor to improve Austin’s response to hatred with the help and input of local community groups.

“The resolution will condemn acts of hatred, anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry,” said a statement from Councilman Alter’s office. Support from other councilors and city leaders is already pouring in.

Alter is also requesting a briefing on the city’s current protocols and legal options for responding to the signs exhibited at the Far West Boulevard crossing over MoPac early Saturday and again Tuesday.

Local nonprofit leaders in Shalom Austin spoke out against the signs and wanted to reassure community members that the police were notified and that leaders worked closely with them.

“We understand this is extremely outrageous and disturbing,” Shalom Austin’s statement on Saturday said. “We are always vigilant in monitoring anti-Semitic groups and work closely with law enforcement to share information about their activities.”

Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon also issued a statement in which he spoke out against the offensive signs and detailed details that his officers endured “a flurry of hate speech and personal insults” as they responded to that scene.

Fast forward to Tuesday at the same place that other hateful messages were hung on that crossing in the middle of rush hour traffic.

It is important to note, less than a mile west of the bridge is the Shalom Austin JCC, where three synagogues and the Austin Jewish Academy all stand.

(Switch through the map below to see more)

Concerns have increased for the community even more Wednesday, marking three years since the deadliest attack on Jewish community in the United States

The mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh left 11 members of the Jewish community.

No date has been set for the trial of the suspect from this report.

While members of the community try to find support in each other, Austin city leaders try to offer as much support as they can, while also not being aware of what the group responsible for the hateful signs is aiming to draw attention to.

“As it continues to happen, I think the council should take a stand,” said councilor Mackenzie Kelly, who on Tuesday approached Alter about how she can offer support. “We must live in a society where we accept each other.”

“It is my responsibility to speak out against acts of hatred, racism, bigotry and anti-Semitism,” Kelly said. “I hope as a leader that other members of society will also feel empowered to speak out against these actions.”

Austin City Councilors Kathie Tovo, Leslie Pool, Paige Ellis, Ann Kitchen, Natasha Harper-Madison and Vanessa Fuentes also plan to support Alter’s decision.

More details on the decision are expected to be released in the coming days.

What are the rules for signs that appear on major roads?

A spokesman for the city of Austin said, after checking with several departments, that the city does not regulate personal signs.

Information on the city of Austin’s website about sidewalks says banners or signs must not be hung or attached to the bridges over roadways, but signs must be carried while walking on sidewalks over bridges.

As for the hateful signs on MoPac, as it is regulated by the Texas Department of Transportation, the city spokesman referred us to them.

A spokesman for Councilman Alter’s office also sent KXAN to TxDOT, though they shared it relevant state laws related to signage.

KXAN will update this story when we hear back from TxDOT.

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