Echoing knee-jerk support-the-troops rhetoric used to suppress criticism of Pentagon waste, Abbott said that the City Council’s decision “puts the brave men and women of APD at greater risk.” On August 18, he and other Republican leaders unveiled a proposed bill to freeze the property tax revenues of any Texas city that reduces the budget of its police department. Abbott also vowed to deploy even more DPS troopers to “stand in the gap,” and on September 3, tweeted that he was considering a separate legislative proposal that would allow the state government to assume control of APD, which would effectively become a subsidiary of DPS.

That agency’s nearly $6 billion budget does not appear to be in any immediate danger of reduction, even with the looming $4.6 billion deficit the state comptroller is predicting through 2021. DPS employs 4,129 full-time commissioned officers and spends about $1.4 billion on salaries alone. If the overwhelming number of state troopers summoned to arrest Lauren Mestas for stealing her own car was any indication, they have an awful lot of time on their hands, not to mention an apparently unlimited cornucopia of top-of-the-line vehicles, equipment, and gear to draw on.

The plentitude of resources contrasted strongly with the street refugee camp directly underneath the First Street Bridge, which grows a little larger every day that the pandemic grinds on, and more people lose their jobs, face eviction, or are ruined by medical costs. Not just here but beneath bridges and overpasses all over Austin, homeless encampments are proliferating, made of dome tents, shelters built of old signage, lawn furniture, laundry lines, and dumpsters installed by the city to contain the trash. All the wooded and overgrown areas of the hike-and-bike trail around Ladybird Lake are now tunneled and burrowed by human residents; at night you can hear their radios playing softly and catch whiffs of hot dogs grilling on small charcoal fires. A stone’s throw from where Mestas was arrested, not 100 yards away, is the House the Homeless Memorial, dedicated to those who have lost their lives on the streets of Austin. The plaque at the base of it says, “Homelessness is the essence of depression. It is immoral. It is socially corrupt. And it is an act of violence.”