Editor’s note: While protests over the death of former Houstonian George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25, continue to rock the nation, Houstonians gathered for a downtown march in his honor on Tuesday, June 2. CultureMap was there to document the historic rally.
Bun B, a Houston rap icon and legendary lyricist, minced no words as he surveyed the tens of thousands gathered in Discovery Green on June 2 to march on City Hall for George Floyd.
“George Floyd was a human being,” he told CultureMap. “But he wasn’t treated like one when he was tortured and murdered in the streets. We want to recognize his humanity and try to make sure dignity is bestowed upon his name and legacy. And we’re here to stand with his family as we mourn and grieve with them.
We’re standing in solitary for all victims of police brutality, and we’re going to show the world that Houston can lead the charge in making a change.”
And what of reports that certain groups might use the march as a way to wreak havoc and destruction and potentially hijack the cause?
“You can look around,” he said. “We got something for them if they try to hijack this.”
That something, it turned out, was unity.
The sentiment wasn’t lost on Lakewood Church pastor, Joel Osteen, as he prepared to march.
“There’s great people here,” Osteen told CultureMap, “and we stand for justice and we stand for each other — side by side, all races — and we’re going to honor George Floyd’s memory by making change.”
Before a poignant moment of silence, the crowd chanted Floyd’s name. Also in the air was the now ubiquitous phrase, “I can’t breathe” and, “no justice, no peace.” Organized by Houston rappers Trae the Truth and Bun B, the march was orderly and peaceful.
Demonstrators wore masks, were young and old, and represented the ethinc melting pot that is Houston. Many were locals; many traveled from out of town. Some, like the Nonstop Riders, even traveled on horseback. A few were celebrities, such as Houston Texans quarterback, DeShaun Watson; most were simple residents wanting to effect change.
The day would see a march from downtown’s Discovery Green to City Hall, with remarks from Floyd’s family members, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Some 16 members of Floyd's family attended the rally.
“He was one of the most humble people, man, with one of the biggest hearts,” said Trae the Truth of Floyd. “Pure love. And that’s what we’re going to represent today: pure love.”
Police Chief Art Acevedo would later kneel with protestors as tensions rose after the main speeches ended and protestors stood opposite Houston police crews.
By 7 pm, police urged protestors to leave; by nightfall, there were occasional clashes. Turner’s office estimated the event’s crowd at more than 60,000 and announced that City Hall would glow that night in honor of Floyd.
While there were spurts of nighttime conflict, the daytime rally surged with an electric sense of pride, history, and the idea that this was a consummately Houston event.
“The time for fear is over,” summed up Trae the Truth. “We’re standing for something.”
(Additional reporting by Jacob Power)
A moment of silence, fists in the air.
The Nonstop Riders made a welcome appearance.
Tens of thousands of marchers packed Discovery Green.
Passions were high.
Unity was a prevailing theme.
Lakewood Church pastor Joel Osteen marched with the crowd.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner: "Quite frankly, this is your city, this is your home. It doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to you."
Chants included, "No justice, no peace."
Rappers and organizers Bun B and Trae the Truth address the crowd.
The sign said it: "Latinos for Black Lives."
A lone Houston Police Deparment officer guards the street.
A Nonstop Rider.
A sign quipped, "United States: Wouldnt [SIC] recommend."
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee greets the crowd.
Marchers flooded the City Hall reflecting pool.
Speakers sparked applause.
Marchers would not be silenced.
The scene in downtown across from the George R. Brown Convention Center.
Taking a moment to cool off.
Demonstrators varied in age, gender, and race.
A rally member represents peace — and the New Orleans Saints.
Houston rap icon, Bun B.
Mayor Sylvester Turner greets officials and clergy members.
The war helmet harked back to demonstrations in the '60s.
Standing up for George Floyd.