Speakers urge San Antonio City Council to ‘defund the police’ during budget discussions

Activists chanted ‘Black Lives Matter’ during City Council meeting

SAN ANTONIO – Chants of “Black Lives Matter" echoed throughout City Council Chambers on Thursday morning as protesters demanded Mayor Ron Nirenberg and council members take action on police funding.

Protesters filled council chambers as council members approached a vote on an ordinance amending the Fiscal Year 2020 annual operating budget, which had been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The amended budget was ultimately passed.

The original budget for SAPD in fiscal 2020 was $479.1 million. The mid-year budget adjustment decreases its spending by $4.4 million — to $474.7 million — primarily because of savings and grants.

WATCH: San Antonio City Council, Mayor Ron Nirenberg to vote on $191M ‘recovery and resiliency’ plan, budget adjustments

Thursday’s demonstration is the latest in San Antonio that has protested the death of George Floyd, which has sparked turbulent protests around the world against racial injustice.

Speakers urged council members to “defund the police” and later shouted over them as they made remarks.

At one point, they booed District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez after he thanked them for “being patient with police officers -- the good ones.”

Additional shouting led to an exchange between an activist who served in the military and Nirenberg.

“I spent two decades of my life fighting in the military for this country," said Jolene Garcia, who identified herself as a retired USAF Technical Sergeant.

We’re trying to be heard. You guys want to hear us? You know what? We never in a million years expected to fight terrorism in our own damn city. Yet, here we are," Garcia shouted. “I have black sons. I have a black father. I have a white face and a black voice, and you’re going to hear it. I’m not going nowhere.”

"We never in a million years expected to fight terrorism in our own damn city" A lot of emotion at city council today as #blacklivesmatter supporters gathered to urge council to "defund the police," often shouting over council members. While Ron Nirenberg threatened to recess the meeting if disruptions continued, but we have not seen anyone removed.

Posted by Garrett Brnger on Thursday, June 4, 2020

Some invoked the names of Marquise Jones, Charles Roundtree and Antronie Scott — all killed by SAPD officers.

Speakers also singled out the police union contract, which expires at the end of September 2021. The current contract and several protections it affords to officers accused of misconduct have been the focus of reformers who want to add more accountability and discipline within the department.

SAPD Chief William McManus told KSAT he had stepped out of the council chambers but had heard what the people attending council were saying.

“There’s a lot of angry folks out there, as I’ve mentioned," McManus said. "But I think that there needs to be a dialogue because there’s a lot of information that I wasn’t hearing that I think ties into what they were saying.”

San Antonio has had five nights of protests — mostly peaceful — following Floyd’s death in Minneapolis last week.

Read also:

San Antonio protesters demand change; city leaders talk about what that really means

Floyd memorials will retrace life, push for justice in death

Autopsy report shows Floyd had tested positive for COVID-19

BCSO deputy on administrative leave after making ‘troubling Facebook post’ about riots, Salazar says

About the Authors:

Rebecca Salinas has worked in digital news for more than 10 years and joined KSAT in 2019. She reports on a variety of topics for KSAT 12 News.

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.