AUSTIN—According to Mayor Steve Adler, if you disobey his shutdown orders, you’re “selfish.” Unless he agrees with your cause—in which case, he’ll praise you and even join you.
Over the past several months, Adler has enacted various shutdown decrees on Austinites, ordering all “nonessential” businesses to close, prohibiting any public or private gatherings, and restricting personal travel around the city. His orders permanently shut down numerous businesses and forced at least 132,000 Austinites out of work and into a new crisis of struggling to make ends meet.
In April, as citizens suffered while not being allowed to work and provide food or a place to live for their families, a few hundred citizens gathered downtown to protest the shutdowns.
Adler called them “selfish.”
“I was fortunate that it was a relatively small group, because any large gatherings like that, I think, were a real concern not just to the people that were there but to the community generally,” Adler said.
“People who gather in situations like that, I think, are being pretty selfish,” he said, adding, “There are better ways to express your First Amendment rights.”
However, fast forward a month and a half to when thousands of citizens amassed downtown to protest police and the unjust killing of George Floyd, and Adler had the opposite response. Those protestors were certainly not “selfish,” nor did they need a “better way to express their First Amendment rights.”
“It is a good and powerful thing to be able to demonstrate, and that’s a good thing,” Adler told local news on May 30. “I expect our law enforcement to continue to show restraint. Recognizing this is in a pandemic, I want people to be safe. Austin is a progressive city and is working really hard. … It is important we have accountability and we show true compassion moving forward.”
Initially, Adler did not attend the anti-police protests, saying in an interview on June 1 that it was because he’s been “consistently urging people to avoid large groups.”
However, local news photographed Adler at a march downtown the following weekend, in the middle of a sprawling crowd of thousands. In one picture, Adler was in the thick of the marchers, surrounded closely on all sides by people.
So much for social distancing.
Furthermore, Adler rebuked citizens again last week to “change their behavior,” warning them that if they did not social distance and avoid groups, among other things, he would “seriously consider” shutting down the city again.
On top of that, Adler claims shutting down could help stop the spread of the virus, even though he’s used wildly inaccurate data and projections over the last several months (including a University of Texas report that had 70 to 100 percent uncertainty) and despite dramatic new data from a Penn State study revealing the virus has already spread to far more people than originally thought (meaning the death rate is far lower, and the safe business reopenings were not a primary factor in its spread).
So now, as he considers another shutdown, concerned Austinites on the brink of potentially being prohibited again from affording food and rent can contact the mayor or the city council.
But be careful—Adler might call you selfish.