River Oaks Showdown
River Oaks showdown: Dueling Trayvon Martin rallies are tense at times but peaceful
Staunchly opposed protest groups gathered in River Oaks Sunday afternoon for a pair of rallies centered on the controversial acquittal of George Zimmerman, the Florida man who fatally shot unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012.
In the past few days, Houston police prepared for the worst when a pro-Zimmerman Facebook group announced it would be holding a "River Oaks Stand Your Ground" event to counter activist Quanell X's "Justice for Trayvon" march into one of the city's most affluent neighborhoods. HPD chief Charles McClelland encouraged citizens to avoid the area if possible.
More than a thousand Martin supporters passed by the counter-protest, where 50 people chanted "U-S-A, U-S-A" and held signs covering everything from "race-baiting" to O.J. Simpson.
But aside from some traffic snarls, all remained peaceful as more than a thousand Martin supporters passed by the counter-protest at West Gray and Shepherd, where 50 people chanted "U-S-A, U-S-A" and held signs covering everything from "race-baiting" to O.J. Simpson.
Perhaps in response to the Monday march that brought Route 288 to a halt, dozens of mounted police officers kept protestors to the sidewalks.
"As a mother of eight, I wouldn't be any other place today," Houston native Jonae Dorsey explained from the Martin crowd. She brought every one of her kids to watch what she called "history in the making."
The scene amongst the shaded boulevards of River Oaks was surprisingly jovial as marchers laughed off a trio of Stand Your Ground protestors who heckled the crowd from across Inwood and Del Monte Drives.
While one man feverishly weed-wacked his front lawn to ward off protestors, a number of area residents came outside to offer an occasional word of support. (My personal favorite moment occurred when a woman stepped out of her house in a Downton Abbey shirt that read "What is a weekend?" and promptly raised her glass of wine.)
"I don't even think some of you realize what you did today," X told the pro-Martin rally after the march, which ended where it started at West Gray and Dunlavy.
"You have so many organizations and groups here today — Whites, Blacks, Hispanics and Asians. You have a United Nations that marched through Houston. The enemy never thought this would ever happen . . . And I'm sorry, boys in blue, but you didn't take any of us to jail."
Police made no arrests at either rally.
"You have a United Nations that marched through Houston. The enemy never thought this would ever happen . . . And I'm sorry, boys in blue, but you didn't take any of us to jail."
In the early afternoon hours Sunday at the River Oaks Shopping Center end of West Gray near Shepherd, it looked like business as usual from the street before the marches began. But further down the avenue, half of Kroger parking lot was taken up by Houston Police Department squad cars and horse trailers that were being unloaded.
HPD Lt. Randall Wallace, commander of the HPD mounted patrol unit that brought 25 horses to the shopping area, said that any time there is a large group protest, “we (HPD) are going to respond appropriately to ensure the safety of everyone concerned.”
Several stores and restaurants noted that business was off and were considering closing for the day.
Around 3 p.m., a pedestrian elsewhere in the shopping center, sporting a gray T-shirt emblazoned “GOT AMMO?” with a bullet in the “O,” said that he was looking for the site of the counterprotest rally. The man, who identified himself only as Matthew, said he wanted to go to the rally to “check it out.”
CultureMap contributor Leslie Loddeke contributed to this report.