“My biggest concern here is for safety,” Kelly said. “These people [are] armed with machetes, they have metal pipes, they have sticks, walkie-talkies and they are wearing bullet proof vests.”
“They have not only harassed me, but I have had city staff come into my office over the last several days thanking me for speaking out about it because they’re experiencing the same thing,” she continued.
Homeless people have surrounded City Hall with their tents for weeks in protest of Austin voters reinstating the city’s camping ban, KXAN-TV reported.
Kelly tweeted earlier this week that she was “harassed and screamed at with obscenities” as she walked out of City Hall, noting that she saw one man with a metal pipe and at least one knife.
“I do not feel safe, which means others do not feel safe either,” she tweeted on Monday. “This really needs to be enforced in some way and city leadership is not doing what it needs to protect its residents.”
The city councilwoman reportedly told KXAN that Monday’s incident was one of three times she’s been harassed by those camping outside City Hall. She said she has not filed a police report for any of the incidents because she does not “want more work for the officers,” the station reported.
“And what’s going to happen? Some detective’s going to have to be assigned to the case and it’s not going to get prosecuted by the County Attorney’s office, ultimately,” she reportedly told the television station.
Camping is prohibited at City Hall or in city parks and was illegal even before the citywide ban, according to the news outlet.
The city’s ban on homeless camping is back in effect and Interim Austin Police Chief Joe Chacon said earlier this month that the ban will be re-implemented through a phased approach, the first of which began May 11 and lasts through June 12.
“I’ve been told by the City Manager’s office and APD [Austin Police Department] that this is a protest and a free speech zone, and so, as such, they’re not moving these individuals right now,” Kelly reportedly told KXAN-TV.
Speaking on “Fox & Friends First” on Thursday, Kelly said “hopefully it ends soon.”
“I’ve been told by the city manager that the free speech zone will not go away until August 8th,” she continued.
APD has given the campers that move-out date to allow for enough time to educate the homeless about the changes, which the department said is standard protocol as it pertains to new ordinances, KXAN-TV reported.
Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk told reporters earlier this month that the city is “laser-focused on addressing homelessness in a safe and humane manner.”
“We want to find alternatives to camping, giving people places to go,” he added.
Chacon added that police “will be concentrating first on those areas that present a greater danger to either the community or to the encampment itself.”
Areas with vulnerable populations of elderly or young residents or have reports of drug and criminal activity will be among those highlighted, according to Chacon.
In the next phase from June 13 to July 10, Chacon said APD officers will transition to written warnings and in some cases, citations.
After that, 72-hour notices will be posted in homeless encampments indicating that cleanups will take place, he said. Those remaining in the camps after the expiration of the notices will be issued mandatory citations.
“We have a beautiful city and people used to come here in droves to visit, however, this is unacceptable,” Kelly said on Thursday, referencing the violence.
Fox News’ Lawrence Jones recently traveled to Austin and spoke with residents regarding the homeless situation. One resident told Jones that people have been assaulted and robbed in the city.
“It started with box cutters as a weapon. Now we sadly joke that we are the machete capital of Texas,” she said.
“We as a People and citizens are left to fend for ourselves,” another resident told Jones.
Spokespeople with APD and the mayor’s office did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
Fox News’ Greg Norman contributed to this report.