[WB1] THE news this week in Houston and across the country was not the coronavirus, but the senseless death (nay, murder) of George Floyd at the hands, or more literally knee, of (now former, and also indicted) Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
The video of the death was sickening enough, but word fairly quickly came out that George Floyd was a Houston native, bringing it all much closer to home.
Unsurprisingly, protests broke out in Minneapolis, and soon spread to other cities in the United States, including Houston. On Friday, a downtown Houston protest started relatively peacefully, but the crowd grew large and some splinter groups engaged in vandalism (although it did not escalate into the war zone we saw in Minneapolis and elsewhere). As Neal Meyer noted in his commentary today, a number of people who were downtown observing the protests reported that some of the vandalism appeared to be instigated and/or carried out by white members of the crowd, causing some to speculate that Antifa was involved. Over 100 people were arrested, but HPD Chief Art Acevedo preached and his officers practiced great restraint. Mayor Sylvester apologized for an unfortunate trampling incident involving a mounted officer which could very well have been inadvertent (while the video was disturbing, one hopes that the officer simply did not see the woman who was trampled, but he should certainly be questioned about it).
On Saturday, quite a few more arrests were made, but most mainstream news reports suggested that the protests were mostly peaceful.
On Sunday, area leaders announced that George Floyd’s body will be brought back to his native Houston, and that the city will honor him with a rally and march on Tuesday, along with a police escort as his body is returned to Houston (if the family desires). This will be a fitting memorial, and the sort that many of us hoped that area political and faith leaders would organize after observing the opportunists who tried to turn Friday’s legitimate protest march into a chaotic series of riots. That’s not what we generally do in Houston. Other cities may not, but Houston will get this right.
[WB2] The Washington Post published a solid op-ed by Chief Acevedo over the weekend. It’s a good read, and Acevedo’s leadership during this crisis has been strong. Commendable. We agree with his comments on police accountability, and hope when this crisis passes, we will see more of that locally, whether it’s the recent shootings that have taken place in Houston (how accountable is it that a department with body cam footage of such shootings can simply decline to release it for such a long period?) or greater transparency regarding the Harding Street Massacre (wouldn’t an apology for a raid by dirty cops that killed two people and their pets be an accountable move?). The local police union constrains any chief’s ability to act, of course, but here’s hoping the decisive chief we’ve seen in action this weekend will take on some of those constraints going forward.
[WB3] The editor of the Houston Chronicle editorial page – the same editorial page that has agitated for years against the death penalty – apparently has changed her mind and decided she’s FOR the death penalty now. At least for the officer who killed George Floyd.
It’s confession time for me, however. For many years, we here at blogHOUSTON did make light of (then) Chronicle editor Jeff Cohen for turning his editorial and news pages into an unabashed anti-death penalty advocacy shop. While I’m still not a fan of the way advocacy posed as reporting during this period, my own view on the death penalty has evolved since that time. I am no longer convinced the criminal justice system (read: government) can get the death penalty right, especially when it comes to the many defendants who don’t have the means to mount a robust legal defense. And we have seen too many instances of dirty cops behaving badly (and how many more instances have we NOT seen?). That last is what now gives me pause. I no longer support the death penalty, and have not for a while.
So this is likely a first – the editor of the Houston Chronicle editorial page can claim to be to “the right” of us on an issue, it would seem. 2020 just keeps getting stranger.
[WB4] On a much more positive local (and American and global) note, SpaceX and NASA flawlessly executed a crewed space launch and docking with the international space station this weekend (after Wednesday’s weather delay), marking the first American crewed flight on an American spacecraft from American soil to low earth orbit since the space shuttle retired – and the first such flight to space ever by a private company. A glorious feat by all involved!
[WB5] If the many gatherings that took place over Memorial Day Weekend didn’t already signal that people were no longer going to be acknowledging all the lockdown shaming/scolding (from someone who promoted viral restaurant meetups during a pandemic, no less!), this weekend of protests almost certainly drove it home (as Neal Meyer observes). We will be assessing the human costs of these lockdowns for years to come.
[WB6] KTRK-13 reports that northeast Houston resident Lloyd Nelms has finally moved in to his rebuilt home thanks to swift action by the Texas General Land Office (and a couple of years waiting on the City of Houston to act after Hurricane Harvey).
[WB8] Menstrual hygiene expert (and hyperpartisan state rep) Gene Wu visited with a special interest group about tampons this week (one would hope with appropriate distancing measures in place).
[WB9] Stan Stanart accidentally announced he’ll be running to reclaim the Harris County Clerk job. Two others have announced on the Republican side so far.
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