Photo: Keri Blakinger
The battle cries of angry activists echoed through the Third Ward Saturday night as dozens of Black Lives Matter protesters blocked streets and shouted obscenities at the swarm of police flanking the march.
Sparked by the recent police-involved shootings of black men in Oklahoma and North Carolina, the MacGregor Park protest kicked off at 6 p.m., just minutes after Charlotte police released much-awaited footage of the moments leading up to the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.
Halfway through the meandering Houston march, mounted police squared off against protesters in a parking lot, but ultimately activists agreed to take a different path, and officers followed along to guide traffic.
Briefly, marchers blocked the intersection of Scott and Wheeler, but after a few rounds of ebullient chants of “Hands up, don’t shoot,” the crowd continued on its way to Texas Southern University.
“We’re tired of seeing what’s going on in America. We’re fed up,” protest leader Deondre Moore said as crowds gathered before the demonstration.
“Every morning I see black and brown bodies in the street. I don’t feel safe when I see a police officer coming around. I’m afraid to say this, but white people don’t have to deal with this,” he continued. “When something is wrong, we need to call it for what it is – systematic racism, police brutality, a system that wasn’t built for people who look like me. It needs to be dismantled and rebuilt.”
Houston Community College student Gregory Chatman, 25, added: “Too many times people are dying at the hands of cops. We’re tired of coming here and saying black lives matters – police need to stop killing us.”
Meeting under a statue of Martin Luther King Jr., a diverse assembly of protesters, toting colorful signs and wearing bold-print Black Lives Matter shirts, opened with a moment of silence – followed by more than two hours of impassioned shouting.
Rebecca Nelson and Deondre Moore both spoke before the start of Saturday’s march.
“Black lives do matter because I’m a black woman,” said Rebecca Nelson, 43, who spontaneously joined in the protest after spotting it during her niece’s birthday party in the same park.
“Nothing from no one else,” she added.”It’s just saying that I’m someone too.”
Other speakers stressed the importance of nonviolent protest and making changes. One woman specifically encouraged attendees to vote against GOP candidate Donald Trump because “he’s speaking like a fascist.”
Sometimes ignoring police requests to stay in one lane, protesters spilled out across the street as they snaked through University of Houston campus and into the Third Ward, sounding off with a slew of group chants, including, “No justice, no peace, no racist police” and “Pig, pig, bang, bang.”
“F— blue lives,” shouted one particularly incensed demonstrator.
A large police presence – including numerous vehicles, at least 15 mounted officers and another 30 or more on foot – corralled the crowd, negotiating with leaders from time to time about which paths they could take.
As the evening’s exertions wound up on Texas Southern campus, still-energetic protest leaders stopped for another round of chants and speeches and a quick and unexpected moment of slam poetry.