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71-Year-Old Woman Arrested while Sitting at Austin Airport, Jailed, Brutalized

A 71 year old woman was arrested, jailed and brutalized while sitting in the Austin airport.

Daniel Werst

April 12, 2023
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Karen McGee, 71, hyperventilates as police begin moving her out of the airport (screenshot via APD Body Cam Footage)

The Austin Police Department arrested partially deaf septuagenarian Karen McGee after airline clerks reported her for back talk. Then a jail guard brutally assaulted her. Democratic city officials have maintained that no injustice occurred.

In September 2022, five Austin cops responded to a call from the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport after Karen McGee argued with Alaska Airlines clerks and then took a seat in the gate area. Cops removed McGee from the airport and arrested her for “trespassing.” Then, at the Travis County jail, a guard twisted and broke McGee’s arm. She alleges they did this while forcibly stripping her while handcuffed after she argued about keeping her wedding ring. The county held her in jail for three days without medical attention.

The incident has become public six months later. After McGee hired an attorney to build a case, the Austin Chronicle ran a story titled “Austin Jailer Breaks Elderly Deaf Woman’s Arm after Misunderstanding at Airport.” Yet the Austin Police Department told the newspaper that it sees “no issues” with this arrest. The head of the Travis County sheriff’s office declared, “Our agency takes the health and safety of the individuals in our facilities [the jail] very seriously and takes appropriate steps to maintain their safety.”

Austin is known as the blue dot in red Texas. This brutality happened in the middle of the city’s airport. It’s time we all tell every liberal politician who says the police are actually being reformed to fuck off. They are not, and capitalism does not produce safe, kind, or helpful cops.

McGee, who lives in Florida, is 71 years old. She is partially deaf, uses hearing aids, and had technical difficulties with them on the day of her arrest. She was in Austin on a Delta Airlines layover and, through confusion and hearing trouble, missed her connecting flight to Seattle.

Delta issued McGee a ticket for an Alaska Airlines flight from Austin to Seattle. Learning that there was an earlier plane on the same airline to the same destination, she approached the gate agents and asked to switch onto the earlier flight. The employees told her no. McGee eventually walked away and sat down. But during the 12-minute argument they had with McGee, the airline clerks canceled her existing ticket for the later flight and called the cops.

According to McGee, sheriff’s guards gave her over-the-counter Aleve pain pills during her three days locked up, but never got her any medical consultation or admitted that she was seriously injured. When she was released, McGee could not stand, and an emergency medical technician was called. After returning home to Florida, she underwent surgery on her arm.

McGee is planning to sue the Austin city government. Her lawyer, Rebecca Webber, states that as she contacted authorities over two months about the violence done to McGee, “the city told us to eff off,” refused to release records, and granted a meeting with them only after the story came out in the press.

This is not the first time cops have broken an elderly disabled woman’s arm during a crimeless arrest. The case mirrors that of Karen Garner, whose arm was broken by police in Loveland, Colorado, when she was arrested in 2020 at the age of 73 for shoplifting. Police shockingly murdered Anthony Lowe, a man with both legs amputated, in Los Angeles this January, as well as Richard Lee Richards, a man in a wheelchair, in Tucson in 2021. Both while they attempted to flee from the police.

The capitalist media and every Democrat tell us the police exist to “serve and protect” everyone. What they did to McGee after she argued about a plane ticket shows once again that the cops are a barbaric blunt instrument. The very concept of “public order” can never be neutral in a capitalist society. It will never serve the population as a whole. “Law enforcement” does not exist to address crime and violence.

Capitalist cops suffer from a strange social-psychological disease, which causes them to refuse human decency to an unarmed stranger seated in a public waiting area — even if she is 71 years old and disabled. The cops treat people as enemies if they get reported as a nuisance to businesses, or if they judge them to be part of an informally defined unruly, undignified, or unworthy underclass. This is why they continually hurt and kill people who are disabled or elderly, even if their victims are handcuffed, massively outnumbered, and so on.

Capitalist politicians have defended the arrest and brutality against McGee for six months. They have no shame. Kirk Watson, the mayor of Austin, is a Democrat. This did not prevent a woman from being unjustly brutalized and jailed. The Democrats are not our allies in this fight, and the police have no right to exist. Workers and oppressed people need to become independent from both of the U.S. capitalist parties.

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Daniel Werst

Daniel is a teacher, former carpenter, and long-term socialist living in Indianapolis.

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