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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

City

Black Lives Matter march encourages open dialogue


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Police were present throughout the Black Lives Matter march Saturday that began at MacGregor Park and ended at Texas Southern University. | Thom Dwyer/The Cougar

Black Lives Matter activists and allies gathered beneath the Martin Luther King Jr. statue at MacGregor Park Saturday to demand justice for fallen members of the black community.

During a time for open speaking, Rebecca Nelson, who was at the park in celebration of her niece’s birthday, spoke of her fear as a black woman and as the mother of black children.

“It’s all right to be scared, it’s all right to have fear,” Nelson said, before urging the audience to put those fears aside in order to push for change. “Let’s stand up for justice, peace and equality.”

Marching for justice

Among the controversial deaths mentioned were the recent police shootings of Terrence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Footage of Scott’s shooting was released just hours before the protest.

“Don’t let this be a one-day thing or a one-time thing,” Deondre Moore, an equal rights activist and Sam Houston State University student, said. He urged those present to continue advocated for black lives, but Moore said the biggest contribution anyone, especially young people, could make is to get out and vote.

Using elections to incite change was a theme among a majority of the speakers. They urged the audience to make their voices heard in the upcoming local and presidential elections.

“We need to organize with our dollars. We need to organize with our votes,” said Adele Montgomery, an adult educator in the community. “Young people, please vote. You guys are the ones who pushed this movement forward. The movement always comes out of the universities. It comes out of the young people.”

As the protest marched toward UH, upward of 80 people chanted demands for justice and recognition. “Hands up, don’t shoot,” and “No justice, no peace,” could be heard along Calhoun Road and University Drive.

Houston Police Department officers were present throughout the protest on foot, in squad cars and on horseback. From the beginning of the march, the officers were largely met with anger and hostility. The animosity ultimately culminated in a “F*** blue lives” chant that failed to catch on as the crowd moved through the UH campus.

At one point, HPD officers prevented protesters from moving toward Texas Spur 5. More than 20 officers lined up across University Drive, forcing protest participants to take a different route through the University.

Despite the tense atmosphere of the event, HPD officers remained present and peaceful.

Call to action

Legal observers for the American Civil Liberties Union were present to document the proceedings of the protest and any misconduct between police and the demonstrators.

According to the ACLU website, these trained volunteers serve as legal witnesses to ensure that First Amendment rights are respected.

From UH, Black Lives Matter: Houston and its supporters continued marching down Wheeler Avenue and past TDECU Stadium until they reached Texas Southern University.

As protesters gathered at the historic Tiger Walk located at the university’s entrance, TSU alumnus and UH master of public policy candidate Jerry Ford Jr. spoke of the university’s history during the civil rights movement.

In the closing remarks at TSU, Ford urged others to share what the movement means to them. Among the volunteer speakers was a boy, a friend of the recently slain 24-year-old Ashtian Barnes.

The boy said he was 13 years old and called himself Corey.

“White silence is black violence, and that’s what we want students to know,” Gregory Chatman, an organizer for Black Lives Matter: Houston, said. “Get out, get involved and join the cause. Black lives matter.”

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