Beginning his afternoon press conference Monday with word of two more deaths in the city due to COVID-19, Mayor Sylvester Turner reminded one and all that the coronavirus is still present in Houston and urged participants in the recent marches related to George Floyd's death to take advantage of the city's testing sites.
Floyd was the 46-year-old Houston native who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes while the handcuffed Floyd struggled to breathe. Four officers who were involved in the incident were fired, and Derek Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd's death.
A number of media outlets were reporting today that an independent autopsy commissioned by the family found that Floyd died from "asphyxia due to neck and back compression that led to a lack of blood flow to the brain." This contradicts a preliminary autopsy done by Hennepin County in Minnesota which did not find asphyxia or strangulation as a cause of death and said the manner of death remained pending. Update 06.02.20: the medical examiner for Hennepin County finally concurred with the independent autopsy and labeled Floyd's death a homicide.
In Houston, after a mostly peaceful afternoon march on May 29, later on Friday night things took a violent turn with vandalism , looting and more than 100 arrests. However, the mayor said, there were almost no arrests Saturday and Sunday as almost everyone taking to the streets to protest the death of George Floyd remained calm and peaceable on those days, Turner said.
On Tuesday at 3 p.m. there will be another march from Discovery Green to Houston City Hall starting at 3 p.m. A large number of people are expected at the activity organized by Bun B and Trae tha Truth, well known local musicians and civic activists.
"We are ramping up for a large crowd tomorrow," Turner said "This is a salute to George and an acknowledgement he should not have died the way he did. "
Turner said although this was not a city-sponsored event, he planned to join the marchers, adding that he expected other officials from city hall to join in.
Mentioning that he has talked to George Floyd's family several times, Turner said the dead man's have said they want any protests and marches to be peaceful with no violence.
"We want to keep the focus on George Floyd," Turner said.
Responding to questions about the number of out-of-towners who may have come into Houston to join the protest march, Turner said he had no idea how many there were but that most of the people arrested have been from the Houston area. On Monday, Texas Gov. Abbott announced that anyone who comes to Texas for out of state "to engage in looting, violence, or other destructive acts in violation of federal law will be subject to federal prosecution. Anyone who is arrested and charged with such offenses will be transferred to federal custody." He said he was joined in this announcement by all four U.S. States attorneys in Texas.
There will be a funeral for Floyd next week in Houston but Turner said the family has not worked out the final details yet. He said the body would be moved from Minneapolis to North Carolina and then to Houston.