Police in Texas’ two largest cities deployed pepper spray and tear gas Friday night as protests escalated over the death of Houston native George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
Protesters in Houston blocked highway entrances and threw objects at officers after what had been a day of largely peaceful demonstrations. Some clashed with police at several occasions downtown Friday evening, with officers deploying tear gas or pepper spray to disperse crowds, including one confrontation that took place near police headquarters.
A white Minneapolis officer was charged with murder Friday in the death of Floyd, a black man who begged for air while handcuffed on the ground as the officer pressed his knee into his neck. Floyd is a native of Houston’s Third Ward.
Organizers believe more than 3,000 people gathered with Black Lives Matter Houston to protest Floyd’s death with chants of “I can’t breathe” and “No justice, no peace,” as they marched from Discovery Green to City Hall. Some were arrested for attempting to block roads, including Interstate 68, but no injuries were reported, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said. The mayor added some police vehicles were damaged.
A similar escalation developed in Dallas, where a rally before hundreds of demonstrators at police headquarters escalated when demonstrators marched downtown to an intersection near City Hall. Video from the scene showed them being met by officers in riot gear and shields.
After a brief melee, a police patrol car was spray-painted and a demonstrator leapt onto another one. First, a few rocks flew toward police, followed by bottles. An officer on a loudspeaker warned the throng to disperse or be arrested, then the tear gas flew. The demonstrators then turned their attention to Interstate 35E on the western edge of downtown, where dozens briefly blocked traffic.
One police officer received a non-life-threatening injury during the melee and police vehicles had windows and windshields shattered and tires slashed, Police Chief U. Reneé Lee said. There were no immediate reports of arrests. Protests have spread across the U.S., fueled by outrage over Floyd’s death, and years of violence against African Americans at the hands of police. On Friday, the white Minneapolis police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck was arrested and charged with murder.
Hundreds of chanting, placard-brandishing protesters marched through the streets of downtown Fort Worth on Friday afternoon, escorted by police.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo had said he welcomed the peaceful afternoon rally, before the protests escalated into disorder.
“We stand with them protesting what happened in Minnesota,” he said. “I’m happy that they’re here today because people need to be heard, voices need to be heard.”
One of those protesting Floyd’s death was Jimmy Ohaz, 19, who came from Richmond, a Houston suburb.
“My question is: How many more, how many more? I just want to live in a future where we all live in harmony and we’re not oppressed,” he said.