Militant Journalism

Houston protesters demand accountability after recent spate of racist police killings

Hundreds of protesters took to Houston’s streets for four days over Labor Day weekend, continuing the fight for justice for those killed by the police. The actions took place across the city and were hosted by the People’s United Renaissance Party.

Earlier this year, within a period of just six weeks, Houston police officers shot and killed at least six different people, all of them either Black or Latino.

In April, four cops shot 27-year-old Nicolas Chavez a total of 24 times while responding to a call of a “suicide in progress.” Chavez was on his knees when police killed him.

In the same month, 35-year-old Joshua Johnson was house-sitting for his parents when a plainclothes police officer rolled up on his house in an unmarked car, shot him multiple times, killing him. The police say Johnson wielded a gun, but the only eyewitness is the cop that killed him, and he was not wearing a body camera.

Just five days later, 28-year-old Christopher Aguirre was killed by HPD on his front porch; Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo claimed there was no bodycam, only helicopter footage of the incident.

In May, police killed Adrian Medearis, a 48-year-old choir director and well-known Houston gospel singer, during a traffic stop. 

Just days later, a group of cops harassed 30-year-old Rayshard Scales while he waited at a Metro bus stop. Officers “claimed he was in possession of a weapon” (which later turned out to be a BB gun, and even this is unconfirmed) and shot him multiple times. 

Actions took place over the four days outside of HPD headquarters, at major downtown locations, at City Hall, in Houston’s historically Black Third Ward and in Montrose (Houston’s “gaybourhood”) to draw attention to police violence and gentrification that specifically targets Black LGBTQ people. Police attempted to intimidate protesters by following marches with multiple officers and driving large vans designed to hold about a dozen or so people, but protesters were undeterred. 

At one action outside of HPD headquarters, protesters marched through the streets chanting “Black lives matter” and “Defund HPD” as onlookers on the sidewalks raised their fists in a show of solidarity. An organizer took to the megaphone to declare: “What we want is a world post-police. What we want is a world post-prisons. What we want is a world where we take care of each other, where the state exists to take care of its citizens, where we don’t need to lock people up in cages to police behavior and we can address the real causes of the pain that leads to violence. In a world like that, we won’t have to say that Black lives matter, but now we have to say that Black lives matter because the world doesn’t affirm that on a daily basis. We are going to let the Houston police department know today that we will not allow them to continue to abduct and assault Black residents, Black Texans, and Black lives.”

Even as protesters were in the streets, Houston police were working to put a spin on the dash-cam footage from Nicolas Chavez’s killing before its release. Five months after his death, and a week after the Labor Day protests, HPD finally released the final moments of Nicolas Chavez’s life. The footage shows Chavez, who was allegedly trying to harm himself, being tased and shot with bean bag rounds and 24 rounds of bullets. The four officers responsible for his death were fired several hours before the video was released to the public, five months after the killing. No criminal charges were filed. Predictably, the Houston Police Officers’ Union is defending the cops who carried out this brutal execution and calling their firings “unjust and deplorable.”

Houston activists are mobilizing a massive push for the city to renegotiate the Houston Police Union contract which goes into effect January 2021. This new contract essentially gives the police union the power to clear officers of misconduct. The struggle continues!

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