A wise Hairballian philosopher once posed the question: If a demonstration happens in Downtown Houston and few come out to participate, does it still happen?
In the instance on Thursday afternoon, the answer was yes. Though well intentioned, the "Funeral for the Gulf" failed to draw the turnout organizers expected, but it didn't seem to faze anyone.
The hope was for a group of 75 to 100. By 4 p.m., when the funeral procession was scheduled to begin, only four people were in front of City Hall. By the time the procession began, the number had only grown to nine, but they walked anyway.
"We don't need numbers," said Dr. Joseph Kaye, an organizer from Our Real Cost of Oil. "We have faith, and faith will take us far."
Even HPD was surprised by the low turnout. According to one officer, they were prepared for anywhere from 15 to 50. Six officers were on horseback, two were on bicycles and four were on foot. The horse and bikes followed the procession.
ORCOO, a young action group in Houston, put together the mock funeral as a way to voice its dissatisfaction with BP and the toll the oil spill has taken on the Gulf and its marine life.
The nine who walked carried signs and wore black. Almost everyone had an umbrella, some wrote messages on them as well. The small, motivated group walked south on Bagby, stopping briefly in front of the building housing the Chevron Corporation. They continued along Dallas and then turned up Louisiana, getting the occasional honk from cars passing by and curious stares from people passing on the street or waiting for the bus. Close behind the nine-person procession, were the six cops on horseback, who stopped traffic for no apparent reason at one point.
When the procession returned to City Hall, there were more waiting. The group grew to 17 by the time Kaye shared some words. He called for BP to hold itself accountable and share the truth, to stop harnessing what the media knows and prints. A few others spoke and then the group sang a rendition of "Amazing Grace," with altered lyrics, beginning with: "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a soul like me / BP killed eleven, our Gulf times seven; was blind, but now, I see."
When it seemed the group was ready to disperse, Kaye asked if any of the remaining few were willing to do another loop. Some were, and so they walked. The coffin stayed behind.
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Kaye said he expects that ORCOO will organize another gathering in the near future.