Houston is known as one of the most diverse cities above being the energy capital of the world. However as diverse as the city is, there is an ugly truth that has been lingering for over 10-years in Harris County. Houston’s Harris County has not indicted a police officer for murder since 2004. This includes the numerous unarmed murders that have proceeded by Houston Police Officers and Harris County Constables. Most recently the Jordan Baker case is being reviewed by a Houston Grand Jury as a decision has not been made. The Grand Jury will reconvene on Thursday at 9 a.m. Baker was a 26-year-old unarmed black man who was gunned down by a Houston Police Officer in January 2014. The Grand Jury review comes at the heels of a global outbreak of protests against police brutality and police who abuse their power yet are rarely held responsible for their illegal actions. Houston has been hosting police brutality protests for years now however recently, the Galleria area has been a hotspot for activists and participants to focus their energies.
How Many Is Too Many In Death?
On August 9, 2014, unarmed Michael Brown was gunned down by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. On November 24, 2014 a Grand Jury no-billed officer Wilson. On August 5, 2014, John Crawford was in a Dayton, Ohio Walmart where he was shot to death by police officers due to a call made to 911 indicating that a black man was inside the Walmart branding a gun. That gun turned out to be a BB gun sold by that particular Walmart and Crawford was never a threat. The officers involved in that shooting were later cleared of any charges. Weeks later it was determined that the 911 caller lied about Crawford and has yet to be held liable for his role in Crawford’s death. On November 22, 2014, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was playing at a local park in Cleveland, Ohio when he was murdered by police in less than 2-seconds. Rice was playing with his toy BB gun when officers quickly pulled up and in less than 2-seconds, shot Rice to death. Video footage of the incident went viral and fueled further outrage of this nonsense killing of a child who was at a park, doing what children do. The individual who called 911 had strongly indicated that the gun that Rice was playing with was most likely a toy gun. Even with that information, cops still murdered a child which was recently ruled a homicide. There have been no charges filed against the officers responsible for Rice’s death. On July 17, 2014 Eric Garner of Staten Island, NY was murdered by NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo who was later no-billed in Garner’s murder even though the murder was caught on video and the death was ruled a homicide. A twist to the incident is that the individual who filmed the footage of Garner’s death was recently indicted on a weapons charge. It is strongly suggested that the amateur video host was targeted by the NYPD. On November 20, 2014 unarmed Akai Gurley was murdered by an NYPD rookie Peter Liang after claiming to be “spooked” by Gurley in an unlit stairway. He called it an “accidental shooting”. As of December 6, 2014, a Grand Jury began their hearing on the case and to date there has not been a decision made. In November 2013, Alfred Wright turned up missing in Jasper, Texas, a city that is known for KKK activities and host several KKK cells. Wrights body was found with his eyes gouged, his tongue ripped out and his body tortured in ways that cannot be imagined. It is believed that Wright was a victim of a hate crime which isn’t surprising when we’re talking about East Texas. Since his body was found, authorities have not been compliant in resolving this murder, refusing to run a proper investigation from State Rangers to County authorities which have doing all they can to protect the true murder(s) of Wright. Protests led by the New Black Panther Party were staged in Jasper as they called for an investigation to Wrights death which continues to fall on deaf ears. As of August 2014, the New Black Panther Party demanded the release of Shane Hadnot, calling him a “scapegoat” according to Beaumont Enterprise dot com after being federally indicted. Seeing how little to no effort Texas authorities have given and knowing the dark history of the FBI, most likely Hadnot is the fall guy for Wrights murder and the true party responsible will most likely never be held liable for his death. Then we cross over to Trayvon Martin who was murdered by George Zimmerman who was working security detail the night that Martin was killed. Zimmerman had been found “not guilty” but has since arrogantly paraded around the country toting a weapon and acting aggressively towards individuals including his ex-wife which he pulled a gun to her head and threatened to kill her.
When you begin to combine the murders in recent months, it is heart wrenching to learn that in all cases, each individual involved in the murder have had zero accountability. Each walk away knowing they have killed a man with little concern of how others are impacted, especially the families. When you look at the big picture, you begin to look at statistics to see an even bigger problem we face in America: every 28-hours a black man is killed by a cop. Nationally, African Americans are arrested three times more frequently than their white counterparts. USA Today reports: According to University of South Carolina criminologist Geoff Alpert, to this day, there exists no national record of the number of civilians killed by the police — and of course, no complete racial breakdown of this information.
Said Alpert to USA Today:
“We’ve been trying [to get this information] for years, but nobody wanted to fund it and the (police) departments didn’t want it. They were concerned with their image and liability.They don’t want to bother with it.”
Why do police agencies across the nation not want a national database that would keep up with real-time statistics? Maybe because these statistics would act as record keeping that would prove that we truly have police agencies that act in racial profiling including police who kill based on race alone. There are tons of reports and stories of minorities who have been victims of police harassment due to racial profiling at least once in their life. While we call on cops to protect and serve, many cops are out violating rights of citizens just because they know they can get away with it. Police departments are usually backed by police unions that are even more corrupt than your typical rogue cop. We’ve seen several unions come forward in defense of cops who kill, rape, violate, harass, set up and wrongly incarcerate individuals and more.
Houston has hosted several protests since the murder of Mike Brown from the Galleria area to 3rd Ward. Each protest continues to grow in great numbers. People are fed up with the biased justice system, lack of accountability, but most of all, because people are being murdered and the justice system continues to send a message to the world that in the United States if you have a badge and a gun, you are free to do whatever you’d like, which includes taking a life without consequences. Houston activists have been working feverishly to ensure that participants have a platform to voice their outrage of the obvious racist and biased system. In the background there have been strategy meetings, full on confrontations with local police and Houston City Council, engaging communities with the hopes of obtaining applications for grand jury participants and shutting down many stores in the Galleria Mall on December 6, 2014. Since then, Simon Properties (who is a publicly traded company) who are the property managers of the Galleria Mall, the 6th largest mall in the nation, have tossed out legal threats to Galleria protest organizers and subsequently spend quite bit of money on having professional signs made that indicated that if any protester enter the Galleria Mall itself or their parking lot, that each would be arrested and prosecuted for trespassing. These signs were posted everywhere outside the Galleria Mall. A few entrances to the mall were gated and locked as the 2nd week of protests ensued on December 13, 2014. Although protesters never entered the mall, they did manage to tie up traffic in several parts of the Galleria area. Several arrests were made on December 13th after Houston Police Officers refused individuals from crossing the street at a cross walk. Two people got tangled in the confrontation between protesters and cops which led to a wrongful arrest. Not that any arrests were valid. We’re talking about peaceful protesters and a very aggressive police force which the Houston Police Dept is known for. One woman who was arrested was seen lifted by her long hair by a officer on a horse then dragged her to the sidewalk with force. Two male protesters were choked each by a Houston Police Officer in that same confrontation. One photo showed where an officers hand is gripping the throat of a protester with force. Moments before this took place, several individuals overheard officers saying “I’m gonna get me one of them today,” “If they don’t like us then maybe they shouldn’t mess with us”.
Which brings me back to a time where a Ferguson Solidarity protest was held in 3rd Ward back in August 2014 where protest participants overheard an officer on his horse recite, “Why don’t we just use the horses on them” as the other officer laughed off the statement. Moments later, three female Houston activists were assaulted by the very same horses participating in the action that day, led by Houston Police Officers. Another concerning and aggressive Houston officer who has been leading officers at the recent anti-police brutality protests is an officer we call Officer Peach Skull. You can usually see him toting a bullhorn, yelling and threatening protesters. He offers no peace in these protests and definitely isn’t looking to bridge the gap between the common people and the police force. He, along with police officers across the nation do not seem to understand that there needs to be a level of trust initiated. Houston protests have been nothing but peaceful all along however Officer Peach Skull and a number of his fellow officers treat peaceful protesters as if they are criminals or hold criminal intent. I myself have been a victim to Officer Peach Skull’s threats. The December 13th protest held at the corner of Westheimer and Post Oak led to hundreds of protesters stuck on one corner. As protesters attempted to cross the street to gain more visibility, I noticed that when the cross walk became available for individuals to cross the street legally, Peach Skull and a few officers prevented protesters from crossing the street for at least 5-seconds then would allow individuals to walk through. Of course participants would find themselves still trying to cross the street when the time ran out on the crosswalk when Officer Peach Skull would get on his blow horn and begin yelling and threatening protesters for being in the street illegally. I quickly confronted him on his actions which led to threats led by Peach Skull and his clique. I was more than willing to go to jail if it meant calling him on his tactic. Once I made it clear to all surrounding officers, local news media, and protesters held at the corner of his tactic, the officers began to allow the protesters to walk the crosswalk the moment it was deemed legal to walk.
If the Houston Police Department wants to earn the trust of the many, they might want to start with local activists who come in peace and while the majority might be passionately vocal concerning police abuse, not one protester has acted in violence nor have any protesters acted criminally. There is no reason for Houston officers to get their kicks on antagonizing participants of these anti-police brutality protests. These peaceful protesters are fighting for a better community in the hopes that these murders led by police officers will be held accountable. That officer will not be allowed to abuse their power. That officers cannot simply use horses against activists, or pull/drag women by their hair or choke activists just because they can. That officers cannot use tactics which can essentially get good people arrested because an officer isn’t playing fair.
The Galleria protests will continue Saturday, December 20, 2014 at Hines Park, Wall of Water as a meeting place at noon. The key is to continue to spread social awareness by any means necessary. Those who’ve been participating in local protests have no intention of backing down and are looking to keep the momentum as the movement continues to sweep America. If you’re interested in participating in Saturday’s action, you can link the Facebook event page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1509678505972362