HOUSTON — In the wake of the kind of violence that went down in Chalottesville, Virginia last weekend, there have been calls ringing out from many across America to remove Confederate monuments from public lands. On Saturday, a number of those voices will be taking part in a protest here in Houston.
Protesters plan to rally for the removal of the Spirit of the Confederacy statue in Sam Houston Park in an event they’re calling “Destroy the Confederacy.” The protest is being organized by Black Lives Matter Houston and Standing Up for Racial Justice HTX.
“We can no longer support or condone having Confederate monuments that positively reinforce white supremacists and also white privilege,” said organizer Ashton P. Woods.
He said the organizers of the protest asked that children not be brought to the event just in case things get out of hand.
“We’re expecting counter-protesters, we always expect counter protesters, but I feel as though children need to be in a safe place,” said Woods.
The group This is Texas Freedom Force isn’t organizing a formal counter-protest, but many of its members are planning to come out anyway.
In a Facebook video, one of the group’s leaders said he spoke with the Houston Police Department about the event and was assured that officers won’t let the statue fall.
“They have told me that the statue will not be removed and they will not stand down like Virginia,” said Brandon ‘Milkbone’ Hewitt. “They are there to protect that monument.”
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said that isn’t exactly the case. In a press conference ahead of the event, the police chief said his officers will protect people first.
“We always put our number one priority is public safety, it’s the safety of the people,” said Acevedo. “Secondary, obviously, will be protecting property, but this police department is prepared to do both.”
But Acevedo doesn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea that this means his officers won’t be enforcing the law.
“As long as I am the police chief of Houston, Texas we will not tolerate criminal misconduct,” said Acevedo. “We will not tolerate what happened in Charlottesville with people getting beat up.”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has complete confidence in the city’s officers and echoes the police chief’s sentiments.
“Our primary job is to maintain the safety of the people in our city,” said Turner.
Despite the passion and anger surrounding this hot button issue, Turner hopes that cooler heads will prevail.
“Let’s be very careful that we do not allow what is happening in the national discourse to flow down to the city of Houston,” said Turner.