An estimated 60,000 people congregated in downtown Houston Tuesday for a peaceful protest honoring the memory of native son George Floyd, killed May 25 in Minneapolis. The demonstration, organized by Houston rappers Bun B and Trae The Truth, was sanctioned by the city, and began at the Discovery Green park across from the George R. Brown Convention Center.
Bun B exhorted the crowd to remain peaceful, “watch for instigators” and to “point their ass out.” As the diverse crowd prepared to march through the skyscrapers they were joined by a Texas cavalry of Black cowboys and cowgirls on horseback known as the Nonstop Riders — some wearing t-shirts reading “Black Cowboys Matter.”
Houston — the nation’s most ethnically diverse city, 17% Black, 8% Asian, 38% Latino — has seen protests in recent days, but limited looting, with a police car torches and several storefronts smashed — but nothing like the rampages in Minneapolis, New York and Seattle. The crowd, including Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and Lakewood megachurch Pastor Joel Osteen, marched to City Hall, where politicians gave impassioned speeches as 16 members of the Floyd family looked on.
“Take your nation. It’s your country. It’s time for a revolution of change,” said Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. “There’s no shame in reparations.”
“I am angry,” said Congressman Al Green. “Only one man has been arrested, when it should have been all four. Not only do we want an arrest, I want a conviction.” He said, “we know if the shoe was on the other foot, people would be in jail.”
Under the watch of hundreds of police officers, the Tuesday march took place after several days of smaller demonstrations, during which Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo has spent hours meeting with citizens in impromptu discussions, and even crying along with them. In a TV interview Acevedo, formerly police chief in Austin, denounced President Trump’s approach to the protesters. “On behalf of police chiefs in this country, if you don’t have anything constructive to say, keep your mouth shut.”
Protesters carried signs honoring others who have died, some at the hands of police. One said: “We stand for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Oscar Grant, John C. Say their names.”
The Tuesday march was peaceful, and although the 60,000 mostly left downtown by dinnertime, thinner crowds continued to mill about. Around 8 p.m. the police ordered them over loudspeaker to “leave the area immediately or you will be subject to arrest and additional force may be used against you.” By 9 p.m. hundreds of police lined the Avenida de Americas, alongside the convention center. By 10 p.m., videos were showing up on social media of dozens of protesters being arrested, but no reports of looting or destruction.
There will be a public viewing on Monday, June 8, with a memorial service June 9 at the Fountain of Praise on Hillcroft Avenue in southwest Houston. Boxer Floyd Mayweather has volunteered to pay for Floyd’s funeral services.
But that won’t end the saga. Signs carried in Houston showed the determination of protesters to see justice carried out. Written on one placard: “You think this is bad. Wait til he gets a not guilty verdict.”