We attended the George Floyd Peace March in Houston yesterday as a white family of five in a sea of 60,000 #blacklivesmatter activists. As we approached the scene of the march, I tensed up. Groups were handing out surgical masks as COVID-19 precautions – very safety-minded. They were handing out water as well which was really nice because it was a 90 degree humid Texas afternoon. But one activist advised, “Everybody take two water bottles, one to drink and one to wash the tear gas out of your eyes.” Wow, things could potentially go South this afternoon. Then I looked around at my fellow protesters. Every hundred yard or so I would spot what I would have to call combat medics. They were part of the protest as you could tell from their clothing, but they also had military-style first aid kits strapped to their belts including tourniquet and all. We are prepared to get gassed and stop bleeding from our limbs. This is serious.
We marched for racial justice. We marched for the memory of George Floyd and all those who were killed before him. The most powerful chant went back and forth: “Say his name! – George Floyd! Say his name! – George Floyd! Say his name! – George Floyd!” He must not be forgotten as a person with a name. But then he also turned into a symbol because he is one out of so many black lives whose worth and dignity have been denied. The anger, frustration and fear on the streets these days is both, one week and four hundred years old. The systemic racism that stems from American slavery continues to turn a blind eye on police who forget their mission to protect and serve. Another powerful chant summed that up: “No justice, no peace! Prosecute the police!” A system that allows killers to go free needs to be called out until finally #blacklivesmatter.
I’m glad we went. Marching on the right side of history is always important. I’m also glad the relationship between protesters and police was appropriate yesterday. Everybody got to drink both water bottles.