A march in protest of what happened to George Floyd, a Houston native who died in police custody in Minneapolis.Photo by Kate McLean
Update 7 p.m.
A splinter group of protesters made their way over to the old police station on Riesner where they blocked the lanes of traffic. Police officers were seen hurrying to the area and at least three people were arrested apparently for blocking the streets there.
Another splinter group got on up on an elevated part of Interstate 10 near N. San Jacinto and has blocked all traffic on it. Officers were starting to form a line to begin containing the group. A fight has broken out between protesters and police with blows struck on both sides. Several people were arrested. Once officer appeared to be injured, continually flushing his eyes out with water. Crowds then began dispersing.
Update 6:30 p.m.
Hopes that there would be no property destruction were somewhat dashed by around 6 p.m. when crowds re-formed in downtown near Discovery Green and a Houston police cruiser was vandalized, its windows smashed and its body damaged.
About three people reportedly did the damage by jumping on the vehicle. Arrests were made but police who ranged in a circle facing the crowd remained very calm and controlled throughout that and the ensuing encounter during which a large crowd blocked cars from traveling through the intersection in any direction. The ground was littered with water bottles thrown at the officers.
At the same time, Mayor Sylvester Turner held a press conference to plead for calm. Saying that, "I understand the pain and the hurt and the feeling that the system is not moving fast enough," but he asked them not to block roads and gates or to destroy property.
"People have a right to march, they have a right to protest, they have a right to demonstrate," he said "What I would ask as the mayor of Houston I would ask that as people march, as they protest, as they demonstrate, as they stand up to voice their disapproval, that they do it peacefully in our city."
"As you deal with your pain, do it in such a way that will not work against our city and the people in this city."
He also pointed out that demonstrators who try to block traffic on freeways are endangering themselves by being out on roads with fast moving vehicles on them.
Beginning their march at Discovery Green about 2 p.m. Friday, hundreds of protesters joined by hundreds more along the way, made their way to Houston City Hall to join in nationwide protests about the death of George Floyd.
Coinciding with Friday's march, Derek Chauvin, the police officer who knelt on the neck of Floyd for almost nine minutes, was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in the May 25 encounter. Floyd died the following day. Chauvin and the three officers with him had all been fired by the Minneapolis Police Department, but it wasn't until today that any charges were filed after public outcry about the video of Floyd's death that went viral.
In contrast to the violent uprisings complete with lootings that have been seen in Minneapolis, Houston's afternoon march began in a generally peaceful way marred early on by a woman said to be armed with a rifle. Reportedly, people in the crowd scattered when she brought out the weapon and Police Chief Art Acevedo said she would be arrested if, as it appeared, she had tried to start a riot. Some water bottles were thrown at police.
But there were no reports of shots being fired. The crowd was made up African-Americans, Hispanics and whites. Signs were everywhere, many of them repeating Floyd's last words: "I can't breathe."
However, as the day wore on and as the Houston Chronicle documented in a video, a fist fight broke out between Black Lives Matter Houston founder Ashton Woods and another man. Black Lives Matter had organized the event. It was broken up and people moved on.
Nineteen-year-old Jimmy Ohaz who attended the rally said: "I’m tired of my people dying. We just want to make it home to our family. We want to see a future where we can all be together, we can all correlate, safe and in harmony. Many of my people have been targeted because my skin looks like the same color as a gun."
It appeared the police force were trying to downplay any sense of an armed force since they weren't in full riot gear and their weapons remained holstered. Around 3:45 p.m. some in the crowd moved to "take" the nearby Interstate 45 by blocking an entrance ramp but officers both mounted and on foot lined up and prevented that from happening, allowing traffic to proceed at a slower pace and without all the lanes normally opened to it.
As the event began petering out, there was some minor vandalism from the few remaining members of the crowd. Traffic cones were tossed into the streets, a trash can knocked over and some people decided to mark the day with graffiti. But nothing like some of the violence — the burning down of a police station in Minneapolis for example — that has occurred in some other cities.
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