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Jan 20, 20

Austin, TX: Stop the Sweeps Protests Home of CEO Behind Homeless Camp Evictions

Report from Stop the Sweeps in Austin, Texas, who organized a demonstration against the CEO of WorkQuest, which is behind the ongoing homeless encampment evictions in Austin. For more information on WorkQuest, go here.

On the morning of January 18th, Stop the Sweeps went on the offensive against the displacement of our unhoused neighbors. With an energetic crowd of around 40 supporters, we marched with banners, whistles, posters, and chalk on the home of Fred Weber, Jr, the CEO of WorkQuest.

WorkQuest is the non-profit contractor in charge of managing Texas’ State Use Program, which matches local and state government labor needs with companies that employ people with disabilities. Under this authority, WorkQuest has facilitated the creation of contracts between the City of Austin & Relief Enterprise, and between TXDoT and EPSI, to provide work crews to carry out the sweeps of encampments under the overpasses. Since WorkQuest lies at the center of this web of bureaucracy and sub-contractors, we decided to pressure them in pushing the demand to end the contracts and the sweeps. Additionally, we wanted to highlight the hypocrisy of a non-profit claiming to serve people with disabilities, while using those people to displace unhoused people, which includes some of the most vulnerable people with disabilities in our society.

We arrived at the northwest austin home of CEO Fred Weber, who makes over $350,000 per year, to deliver our demands after WorkQuest seemingly ignored our call in campaigns. While Fred himself was not home, we made clear to his wife our demands and our intention to continue this struggle to stop the sweeps. During the demonstration, some supporters distributed flyers to many of their neighbors explaining why we were making such a ruckus. For about an hour, we stood there chanting slogans like “No Hate, No Fear, Human Beings Can’t Be Cleared,” and “Drop the Contract.” At points we blasted sirens, air horns, whistels, and vuvuzelas. Some supporters chalked messages on the sidewalk, while others set up a tent on the lawn of the house.

About 40 minutes into our rally the police showed up. While they ignored us for the most part, they swiftly took down the tent in an illustrative, poetically ironic moment. Slowly, more cops trickled in until there were about 5 cars and the officers blocking off on direction of the street. Shortly after that, we marched away without any incidents.

We took this action to make clear that we will not simply play catch up to the State’s game. While we continue to be present at the weekly sweeps and assist those on the ground, we will also be building forces and strategizing to bring the fight to the offices and homes of those facilitating displacement. This was a warning shot. WorkQuest can choose to heed it and break the contract while refusing to fulfill future contracts for sweeps. Or they can ignore it, in which case we will be back.

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Network resisting anti-houseless sweeps, gentrification, and police brutality.

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