Sixty thousand people joined the family of George Floyd as well as elected officials and religious leaders today in a peaceful Houston march from Discovery Green to City Hall organized by rappers and civic activists Trae tha Truth, Bun B, and Floyd's nephew Brandon Williams.
Floyd, 46, a native Houstonian from the Third Ward, died in handcuffs last week after then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Chauvin, who was fired immediately after the incident was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter four days later.
It was released Monday that both a private autopsy done by Dr. Michael Boden and Dr. Allecia Wilson hired by Floyd's family as well as the Hennepin County Medical Examiner ruled Floyd's death a homicide though both reports differed on cause of death. The medical examiner ruled it was heart failure, while the private autopsy ruled asphyxiation. Both reports agreed Floyd died on site, and not later in an ambulance.
The march began and ended with a prayer as well as Floyd's family's wishes that the day remain peaceful—and it did. It is reported that prior to the march the Houston Police Department removed bricks and artillery that had been stashed around downtown and a Houston Alert asked everyone to be on the lookout for suspicious activity.
A family member of Floyd spoke deliberately stating, "This is our home, we will find justice on the streets of Houston, we are going to march in peace and show the nation, show the world what George Floyd is all about." She thanked Bun B and Trae tha Truth for helping to organize the event.
Although this was not a city-sponsored march, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner turned out and addressed the crowd, once again applauding them for standing up for George Floyd and the need for change, but again warning that violent actions undermined their cause.
Prior to the march, Steve Wiltz one of the marchers in the crowd who came with his mother said, “Decades and decades we keep marching and protesting the same cause. In my opinion it’s not up to black people to end racism, it’s got to start with the white man. White people have to stand up and end this, they’re the ones that control everything.”
Wiltz said part of his frustration is tied to the fact that what’s written in history books and taught in schools is not reflective of African American history. “A lot of times we have to learn our black history from our mothers, our parents, our great grand parents,” he said.
“We have to start teaching our kids to stay out of trouble," he said. "A lot of times the white people get us when we’re young— there goes the chances of being in Congress or legislation to help to change the system.”
Many religious community leaders showed up to show support, Steve Wells, pastor of South Main Baptist Church said, “[Houston] is going to lead the way for the nation to figure out how people can come together and today is a beautiful demonstration of our city coming together to take care of each other to speak for peace, to call for justice and to settle for less than neither.”
As thousands settled into Hermann Square at City Hall, Bun B and Trae kicked off the program by thanking religious leaders, city officials, and the Houston Police Department. Bun B spoke of the immediate need for justice, legislation and holding police officers accountable as well as transparency within police departments.
New York City activist Tamika Mallory (known for being one of the organizers of the 2017 Women's March and her subsequent departure from the organization because of alleged anti-Semitism) flew in to urge all to take to the streets like never seen before. "We have to be careful, because everybody that's marching with us is not with us, they want to catch you on camera throwing a brick, turning over a car, so that they can justify murdering us, but we don't have to throw one brick — we have to organize," she said.
As the family of George Floyd circled the podium, his brothers as well as other family members stepped up to thank all for coming. They reiterated the need to create change, "the right way," and if people saw those creating destruction to tell them, "you're not with us."
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green took the stage both announcing they would be introducing new legislation to combat police brutality. Lee stated, "Thursday I will introduce revolutionary legislation that talks about a new culture for policing, recruitment, de-escalation and the preservation that police are here to protect and serve."
Tuesday, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo in response to a conference call Trump had with governors in which he called them weak, advising them to "dominate" told CNN, “it’s not about dominating, it’s about winning hearts and minds.” Acevedo was present throughout Tuesday's march shaking hands, answering questions and patting several people on the back.
As people began dispersing about two hours after Tuesday's event started, Houston police officers lined up along Walker in an apparent attempt to help route marchers back toward Discovery Green and to avoid the splinter groups that broke off in last Friday's march. Last Friday, one of those groups blocked Interstate 10 for a while and others faced off with police officers in other locations. There were more than 100 arrests that day with vandalism of police cars and looting that occurred later that evening.
With multiple speakers advocating peace and non-violence Tuesday, it seemed at least by early evening that there would not be a repeat of the problems last Friday night.
Update 7 p.m.
Things got tenser later in the evening.
Photo by Kate McLean
Things got tenser in some spots. At Walker and Crawford, protesters started screaming at the officers who remained standing in their lines.
Some protesters were kneeling in front of the police headquarters at 1200 Travis.
Others at Walker and Crawford went face down and began chanting "I Can't Breathe."
Face down in front of police officers.
Photo by Kate McLean