The Clemson Tigers haven’t lost a football game in over a year.
Today was no exception. Clemson, led by quarterback Trevor Lawrence, overcame several turnovers and a dogged opposition to win today’s match versus Georgia Tech. In their highest-scoring road game in a century, the Clemson Tigers steamrolled the Yellow Jackets, 73-7.
The match opened inauspiciously: Clemson running back Travis Etienne fumbled the ball early in the first quarter. Georgia Tech recovered and launched its drive, but was unable to score any points. A volley of sorts ensued: Clemson scored first when Lawrence threw a touchdown to Cornell Powell. Georgia Tech responded with a 59-yard touchdown when QB Jeff Sims found receiver Jalen Camp. But Clemson clapped back with an 83-yard TD to receiver Amari Rodgers.
A subsequent Tigers field-goal drive made the score 17-7. But the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets weren’t giving up. Their defense soon forced Lawrence to throw his first interception since Oct. 19, 2019. But once again, they couldn’t turn that turnover into points: Georgia Tech turned the ball over on fourth down. Clemson took over.
From them on, it was an offensive onslaught: Lawrence threw yet another touchdown, a 34-yard beauty to Clemson tight end Davis Allen. Then, Lawrence surprised onlookers by tossing another TD to an unlikely source: 300-pound defensive tackle Nyles Pinckney. And on a subsequent drive, Lawrence scored again — finding Frank Ladson Jr. in the end zone for another TD. That score put Clemson ahead, 38-7.
And then, after his embarrassing fumble, Travis Etienne redeemed himself in a big way. With just over two minutes left in the half, Etienne rushed into the end zone for a touchdown, putting his team up 44-7. (That score made Etienne the team’s all-time scoring leader; he’s racked up 408 points during his career, per ABC.)
When Georgia Tech tried to put together a drive, Sims threw an interception. Tigers player Nolan Turner returned the ball 31 yards to the seven-yard line, and Clemson quickly found the end zone. Lawrence located Rodgers again for a daring TD pass. That touchdown added to what was already a commanding lead; the Tigers led 52-7 at halftime.
But Lawrence’s head-turning play wasn’t the only thing that caught notice. Announcers raved about Lawrence’s intangibles, work ethic, intelligence — and his leadership. Before the first half ended, they noted that Lawrence led a protest march on the Clemson campus back in June. That march followed similar demonstrations across the country after the killing of George Floyd.
Days before, Lawrence had tweeted: “There has to be a shift in the way of thinking. Rational must outweigh irrational. Justice must outweigh injustice. Love must outweigh hate. If you put yourself in someone else’s shoes and you don’t like how it feels — that’s when you know things need to change.” Lawrence clearly felt that it was important to speak up and take action. The ABC commentators quoted Lawrence as saying: “Unless you act, it’s just words.”
As impressive as Lawrence’s commitment to justice is, his play today was just as striking. Lawrence threw five touchdowns in the first half alone. According to ESPN, that’s the first 5-TD game since quarterback Deshaun Watson played for Clemson in 2016. Lawrence finished the day with 404 passing yards and five touchdowns, both career highs.
Lawrence exited the game in the third quarter, but the scoring didn’t stop. Running back Chez Mellusi rushed for a 5-yard TD in the 3rd. Then, replacement QB Hunter Helms launched a 7-yard touchdown pass to #14 Kobe Pace. Finally, wide receiver Ajou Ajou caught a screen pass and returned it for 35 yards, evading defenders as he rushed into the end zone. That final touchdown sealed the deal for Clemson’s landslide victory. (It’s the biggest conference win in ACC history, according to ESPN.) The Clemson Tigers scored the most points they’ve had in a road game since 1915 (!!!)
Best of all, the Clemson Tigers remain undefeated (5-0).
For all of his stunning playmaking, Lawrence still thought there were things to improve upon. In a postgame interview, he commented: “It’s a good day. I felt really sharp on my reads […] I just wanna work on — still, just continue to get better, you know, on my accuracy. Missed a couple throws, I mean…We really left, probably, at least 14 points off the scoreboard.”
“There’s always something you can get better at,” he noted. “But it was a good day.”
Tonight, the first night of the Democratic National Convention closed with a stirring, substantive speech by former First Lady Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama spoke to the pain and fatigue many are feeling amid the coronavirus pandemic. But she also called for empathy and decency — emphasizing those qualities in candidate Joe Biden and underscoring their absence in the current president. Above all, however, she implored everyone to vote.
Mrs. Obama began by speaking directly to the American people. “I love this country with all my heart, and it pains me to see so many people hurting,” she said. “I’ve met so many of you. I’ve heard your stories. And through you, I have seen this country’s promise. And thanks to so many who came before me, thanks to their toil and sweat and blood, I’ve been able to live that promise myself.”
“That’s the story of America,” she said. “All those folks who sacrificed and overcame so much in their own times because they wanted something more, something better for their kids.” With that, she began to outline the taxing requirements of the American presidency.
“I am one of a handful of people living today who have seen firsthand the immense weight and awesome power of the presidency. And let me once again tell you this: the job is hard. It requires clear-headed judgment, a mastery of complex and competing issues, a devotion to facts and history, a moral compass, and an ability to listen—and an abiding belief that each of the 330 million lives in this country has meaning and worth.”
“A president’s words have the power to move markets. They can start wars or broker peace. They can summon our better angels or awaken our worst instincts. You simply cannot fake your way through this job,” she said. “As I’ve said before, being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are. Well, a presidential election can reveal who we are, too. And four years ago, too many people chose to believe that their votes didn’t matter. Maybe they were fed up. Maybe they thought the outcome wouldn’t be close. Maybe the barriers felt too steep.
Whatever the reason, in the end, those choices sent someone to the Oval Office who lost the national popular vote by nearly three million votes. In one of the states that determined the outcome, the winning margin averaged out to just two votes per precinct—two votes. And we’ve all been living with the consequences.” (Jewell Porter, the mobilization director for the Michigan Democratic Party, says that Mrs. Obama was referencing Michigan.)
“When my husband left office with Joe Biden at his side, we had a record-breaking stretch of job creation. We’d secured the right to health care for 20 million people. We were respected around the world, rallying our allies to confront climate change. And our leaders had worked hand-in-hand with scientists to help prevent an Ebola outbreak from becoming a global pandemic.
Four years later, the state of this nation is very different. More than 150,000 people have died, and our economy is in shambles because of a virus that this president downplayed for too long. It has left millions of people jobless.” (At least 30 million, according to Forbes.) “Too many have lost their health care; too many are struggling to take care of basic necessities like food and rent; too many communities have been left in the lurch to grapple with whether and how to open our schools safely. Internationally, we’ve turned our back — not just on agreements forged by my husband, but on alliances championed by presidents like Reagan and Eisenhower.”
“And here at home, as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and a never-ending list of innocent people of color continue to be murdered, stating the simple fact that a Black life matters is still met with derision from the nation’s highest office.” (On July 1, as “Black Lives Matter” was painted on the ground in front of Trump Tower, Trump lambasted BLM as a “symbol of hate”. The remarks came nearly three years after he referred to Nazis and white supremacists as “very fine people”. Meanwhile, the police officers who killed Breonna Taylor have STILL not been arrested.)
Mrs. Obama added that “whenever we look to this White House for some leadership or consolation or any semblance of steadiness, what we get instead is chaos, division, and a total and utter lack of empathy.” That, in fact, was the word of the night.
“Empathy: that’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. The ability to walk in someone else’s shoes; the recognition that someone else’s experience has value, too. Most of us practice this without a second thought. If we see someone suffering or struggling, we don’t stand in judgment. We reach out because, ‘There, but for the grace of God, go I.’ It is not a hard concept to grasp. It’s what we teach our children.
Barack and I have tried our best to instill in our girls a strong moral foundation to carry forward the values that our parents and grandparents poured into us. But right now, kids in this country are seeing what happens when we stop requiring empathy of one another. They’re looking around wondering if we’ve been lying to them this whole time about who we are and what we truly value.
They see people shouting in grocery stores, unwilling to wear a mask to keep us all safe. They see people calling the police on folks minding their own business just because of the color of their skin. They see an entitlement that says only certain people belong here, that greed is good, and winning is everything because as long as you come out on top, it doesn’t matter what happens to everyone else. And they see what happens when that lack of empathy is ginned up into outright disdain.
They see our leaders labeling fellow citizens enemies of the state while emboldening torch-bearing white supremacists. They watch in horror as children are torn from their families and thrown into cages, and pepper spray and rubber bullets are used on peaceful protestors for a photo-op.
Sadly, this is the America that is on display for the next generation.
So what do we do now? What’s our strategy? Over the past four years, a lot of people have asked me, ‘When others are going so low, does going high still really work?’ My answer: going high is the only thing that works, because when we go low, when we use those same tactics of degrading and dehumanizing others, we just become part of the ugly noise that’s drowning out everything else. We degrade ourselves. We degrade the very causes for which we fight.
But let’s be clear: going high does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty. Going high means taking the harder path. It means scraping and clawing our way to that mountain top. Going high means standing fierce against hatred while remembering that we are one nation under God, and if we want to survive, we’ve got to find a way to live together and work together across our differences.
And going high means unlocking the shackles of lies and mistrust with the only thing that can truly set us free: the cold hard truth.
So let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can. Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us.
It is what it is.
Now, Joe is not perfect. And he’d be the first to tell you that. But there is no perfect candidate, no perfect president. And his ability to learn and grow—we find in that the kind of humility and maturity that so many of us yearn for right now. Because Joe Biden has served this nation his entire life without ever losing sight of who he is; but more than that, he has never lost sight of who we are, all of us.
“So if you take one thing from my words tonight,” she continued, “it is this: if you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can. And they will — if we don’t make a change in this election. If we have any hope of ending this chaos, we have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it.”
Last night, a candlelight vigil was held for George Floyd at Jack Yates High School. Floyd graduated from Jack Yates in 1993; the vigil was held on the football field where he once played. Barely a stone’s throw away are the Cuney Homes, a public housing project in which Floyd grew up. Hosted by the Jack Yates Alumni Association, the vigil began at 7:30 pm. It brought together Floyd’s family, friends, and legal counsel. Several elected officials also made speeches at the event.
Houston City Council member Dr. Carolyn Evans Shabazz remembered Floyd fondly: “He never met a stranger or turned away someone in need, even when he didn’t have it to give.” She read a proclamation declaring today, June 9th, George Perry Floyd Day. (Shabazz herself graduated from Jack Yates, and she represents the Third Ward area as part of District D.)
HISD Superintendent Grenita Latham also spoke briefly. “To watch a black man be brutally murdered was brutal,” she said. When she looked at the video of Floyd’s death, “I saw my brother. I saw my cousins. I saw my students,” Latham said. (Fitting, since Floyd was an HISD alum.) “To the family of George Floyd: I offer my condolences, my prayers, to know that we are with you. We’re going to honor George; we’re going to honor the family. But we’re going to honor every child that we serve by ensuring that our staff members, starting with the board all the way down, are trained on how to work with children — especially children of color — and how to meet their needs. Once again, to the Jack Yates Alumni Association: thank you for this opportunity. God bless all of you. God bless our community, and God bless our school district. Thank you.”
Floyd’s teammates at Yates also made an appearance. One of them was Floyd’s friend Von Dickerson, who remembered his friend vividly. “Thanks, everybody, for coming out and supporting my boy. My plight with Floyd was a little different than everybody else’s, because we hung together every day. Every, every day. From him eating at my mother’s house to eating hot meals to me going at his mother’s house — they didn’t have much to eat. Skipping school, being teenagers at Yates. Then the class of ‘90 led us through the hallways until we became grown men, to control the hallway. Man…” he paused for a minute, growing emotional.
“On this same football field right here, we started as freshmens. Then we got moved up to varsity with Gerald and the rest of the crew. Godfrey, Wallace… then we went to the freshman basketball, where we went 36-1. And then we went up to varsity basketball — which we were able to play a game right here at Hofheinz Pavilion, with the class of ’90. And from there we were three-year lettermen in football and basketball. In a lot of things we did, we bucked the system. Here at Yates, you couldn’t sit on your helmets; we started that. I know the class of ’85 would kill us. We didn’t wear jerseys in practice, ‘cause we knew we were ‘the man’. We even got suspended one game, for changing a play. Coach McGowan and all the coaches took us in the office and he said: ‘What the blah blah blah were y’all thinking?’ And our exact words to Coach McGowan was that, ‘Man, we’re seniors. If we gon’ lose, we gon’ lose on our own terms’.”
Dickerson voiced his support for the protesters. “But do it peacefully. He wasn’t a violent dude,” Dickerson said. “And pray for his family. They need it. They going through a lot right now. Everybody lost, confounded, trying to find a way. But again, once they bury my dude tomorrow, we need solidarity amongst all these lines: Class of 93, 87, 88, 89, 85, the eighties, down to the 60s and 70s. We still need you guys’ support, because, again, the battle has just begun. If we stop supporting, one of us could be the next George Floyd. And we don’t need to do no more vigils. We don’t need to light no more candles.”
The Floyd family attorney, Ben Crump, introduced George Floyd’s brothers with thunderous remarks. He compelled those assembled to raise their fists in a display of black solidarity. “Put your fist in the sky! Get ‘em up! Raise ‘em high!” he yelled repeatedly, stirring up the crowd. “Put your fist in the sky! Get ‘em up! Raise ‘em high! Because George Floyd’s life mattered. Black Lives Matter.” He then introduced Floyd’s brothers, Philonise and Rodney Floyd.
“How y’all doing out there?” Philonise Floyd asked as he addressed the crowd. “I just want to thank you for coming out here and supporting my brother.” He remembered watching George play freshman and varsity high school football on the high school field. (Floyd played both basketball and football at Yates. As a tight end, Floyd’s acrobatic end-zone catches helped lead his team to the 1992 5A state championship game, where they lost to number-one Temple.) Philonise Floyd expressed gratitude to the crowd and asked them to continue fighting for reform.
“I really love y’all for giving my brother this much support. Y’all could have been anywhere in the world, but y’all here with us right now. This is a blessing. And this is bigger than George right now. We’re fixing to stop everybody from being afraid of the police. We have good police, but we have bad police. You can’t sort them out, so we got to figure it out right now.”
“So right now I want everybody to start voting — going to council meetings and everything — to get everything together, little by little. We get one step closer to everything we need in life. Hey, we can’t just support, say we’re going to support the president,” Philonise Floyd said. “It’s not just about the president; it’s about what we have here. Because the president is the person over the military right now, we need [help] down here, and everything else expands from there. But I love y’all, like I just said; my brother is here with me, and…” He paused, trying to collect himself, as the audience began to applaud.
He led the crowd in a chant.
“Say his name!” he ordered the crowd.
“George Floyd!” the crowd yelled.
“What do we want?”
Floyd’s brother Rodney Floyd took the stage next. He spoke of how Floyd meant different things to different people. “I’m very happy y’all are honoring my brother,” he said. “Yates know him as Floyd George cause he had two first names, so they put ‘Floyd George’ in the paper all the time. But it’s originally George Floyd. Y’all know my brother as an athlete; some know him as Perry,” he said. “But y’all know him as a football star. We knew him as the big bro. Stand-up man. A good, major influence in the community. Rapper. Good athlete. Good friend. Good brother, great man.”
Rodney Floyd urged the 3rd Ward community to be more politically active. “We got to work on it. And a lot of us have these conversations to ourselves and friends, and honestly, to piggyback on what my brother said: you got to get out there, voting in the community. Get our face in the community. That’s everybody as a whole,” he said. “We’ve got to vote the local legislators in, find out, do our homework and background on them and what they’re offering us, and demand what we need,” he explained, “and let them know if they’re right for us. ‘Cause definitely we need to get the locals in, and the locals are the councilmen and councilwomen in our area. And we definitely need to do that. That way we can get a governor — and whoever else, in that order — on our side,” he said. “We can change the policing and all that included, and then we got to educate ourselves…”
By 8:44 pm, candles were being passed out and lit; those who didn’t have candles instead turned on the flashlights on their phones. A moment of silence was observed until 8:46 pm. The time symbolizes the eight minutes and 46 seconds that now-former officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck.
The vigil closed with prayer and a special announcement: a scholarship fund in Floyd’s name has been established. The scholarship, which includes a $5,000 donation from Comcast, has been established for Yates High School seniors who hope to study mass communications in college. For more information on the scholarship, as well as how to donate, visit JackYatesAlumni.com.
Today, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged a truth we know to be self-evident. But that acknowledgement came only belatedly, only after years of blacklisting outspoken black players. Only after quarterback Drew Brees caught fire for clueless comments about player protests. Only after days of large-scale protests broke out in Minneapolis, Denver, Boston, L.A., New York, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and beyond — and after a frankly stunning video from the players.
Yesterday, several black NFL players released a video addressing the racism and police brutality that have led to cities ravaged by protest. Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, Saints player Michael Thomas, and Giants running back Saquon Barkley appear in the film. So do two of the Kansas City Chiefs: safety Tyrann Mathieu and quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and Cleveland Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr. join them. They all ask the NFL to condemn racism. To admit its wrongdoing. To listen to its players.
“It’s been 10 days since George Floyd was brutally murdered,” Thomas begins.
“How many times do we have to ask you to listen to your players?” Mathieu asks.
What will it take?” questions Hopkins.
“What if I were George Floyd?” they ask. To hear them pose the question — some one by one, some in unison — is poignant enough. But to witness Mathieu, Hopkins, Zeke, Beckham, Barkley, Mahomes and others say “Black Lives Matter” gave me chills. The end is devastating: Beckham, with palpable emotion in his voice and liquid eyes, ends the video by repeating: “Black Lives Matter.”
The powerful video compelled Roger Goodell to do exactly what the players asked. After the brutal murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, after the blacklisting of Colin Kaepernick from the NFL — and after 10 days of alternately peaceful and violent protests across our shores — Roger Goodell gets it. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell released a video today condemning racism on behalf of the NFL.
“This has been a difficult time for our country — in particular, black people in this country,” Goodell said. He expressed condolences to the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, both killed by police in recent weeks. He even admitted to wrongfully silencing NFL players.
Here are his remarks, quoted in part by Yahoo! Sports:
“We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people,” Goodell said. “We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.
“We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter. I personally protest with you and want to be part of the much-needed change in this country. Without black players, there would be no National Football League. And the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff.”
Roger Goodell: NFL admits ‘we were wrong’ on player protests, says ‘black lives matter’
He’s absolutely right. Without black players, there would be no National Football League. And Roger Goodell knows it. According to a 2017 TIDES study, the NFL is roughly 70% black. And those black players form the backbone of the National Football League. It is their strength, their power, their athleticism, that power the league to earn billions of dollars year after year.
And it is their voices that have been silenced.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick drew harsh criticism (and the ire of the president) by protesting racism and police brutality in 2016. The sight of Kaepernick quietly kneeling on the sidelines during the national anthem caused heated debate across America. It was clear from the beginning what his reasons were.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said. But people apparently misheard him. Somehow it turned into a conversation about “disrespecting” the American flag. That false narrative was amplified by the president, who called on the league to fire players who kneeled. (But when white people stormed the Michigan State Capitol with firearms last month, he cheered the liberation” of America. From stay-home orders that were supposed to protect Americans from coronavirus.)
Somehow, it turned into a conversation about “offending” the military — some of whom supported Kaepernick, by the way. (Nobody talks about the fact that Kaepernick got the idea to kneel from a former Green Beret, according to the New York Times.) After Trump fanned the flames of racial animus, more and more people expressed outrage about the protests. And the NFL caved to the pressure, fining players who took a knee. Kaepernick hasn’t played in the NFL since 2016, despite leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl three years earlier. The NFL didn’t support his peaceful protest. But now, things are different. Maybe.
After George Floyd, 46, was suffocated by then-police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, something changed. The viral video of Chauvin spending eight minutes with his knee on Floyd’s neck was a cultural reset. It exposed the suffering that too many black Americans experience at the hands of the police. Days of protests displayed the raw pain and anger that black people felt after watching Floyd slowly die at the hands of Derek Chauvin.
That pain was intensified when reports surfaced about Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old emergency medical technician who was shot eight times by police in Louisville. Police entered her home using a no-knock warrant, failing to identify themselves. They had the wrong house (!!!), and the suspect had already been arrested. They fired 22 rounds into her apartment anyway, killing Taylor. (Today would’ve been her 27th birthday.)
Ahmaud Arbery was jogging in Glynn County, Georgia, when he was stalked and then shot to death. Gregory and his son Travis McMichael trailed Arbery in their pickup truck, while William Bryan aided the ambush by trying to block Arbery in. CNN reports that as Arbery tried to run away from his stalkers and ran past Bryan’s vehicle, Bryan hit him with the side of his truck. Then he watched and filmed the McMichaels’ deadly double-team. As Gregory aimed his handgun, Travis shot Arbery at point-blank range, making sure to walk over and call Arbery a “f—king nigger” as he lay dying.
In response to these tragedies, the unrest they caused, and the voices of the players, Goodell caved.
“I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve,” Goodell said.
The three former police officers who stood by and watched the murder of George Floyd appeared in court today. According to ABC News, “Kiernan Lane, Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao were all charged with second-degree aiding and abetting felony murder and second-degree aiding and abetting manslaughter in the death of the 46-year-old man.” Their bond has been set at $1 million. Chauvin’s bond has been set at $500,000. His charges were updated yesterday from third-degree to second-degree murder.
Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. Lane, 37, allegedly held Floyd’s legs down. Kueng, 26, allegedly held Floyd’s back as Chauvin placed his knee, the criminal complaint said. Thao, 34, watched the entire incident with his hands in his pockets, according to the complaint. The former officers have not entered pleas. Their next court date is June 29.
Earl Gray, Lane’s attorney, said his client was a rookie officer on his fourth day on the force while Chauvin was a training officer. Kueng was also a rookie officer, according to Minneapolis police department records. Which means that Derek Chauvin was training officers on how to brutalize black people. The New York Times reported yesterday that Floyd had coronavirus, which means that Chauvin may have contracted it — and thus infected the very officers that he was attempting to train.
Thousands of protesters gathered in downtown Houston this afternoon for a largely peaceful rally. Houston rappers Trae tha Truth and Bun B helped organize the demonstration in support of justice for George Floyd. (Mr. Floyd grew up in Houston’s Third Ward. In 2014, he moved to Minneapolis, where he was killed last week by former police officer Derek Chauvin.) Beginning at 3:00 pm, crowds of demonstrators amassed at Discovery Green.
Before the march officially kicked off, some participants were interviewed live. ABC 13 reporter Miya Shay interviewed Joanne Harris, who graduated from Jack Yates High School in 1959 (34 years before Floyd did in 1993). Harris said that the video of George Floyd’s murder impacted her greatly. “It was just devastating to me,” she said. “So it affected me tremendously.” As a black mother of black sons, she felt compelled to be there: “Every black person should be out here that’s able to walk or march,” she said.
Bun B asked the crowd to kneel and observe 30 seconds of silence before they began marching to City Hall at 3:30 pm.
At 4:00 pm, Bun B took the podium at City Hall to begin the speeches. He led the crowd to chant George Floyd’s name: “Say his name! Say his name!” Bun used his speech to advocate for police reform, with several elected officials standing nearby: “I plead with our mayor, our congresspeople, our council members: Please pass the bills needed to protect the black people of color from people hiding behind a badge on the streets.”
According to the Daily Beast, Bun B asked the crowd, on behalf of Floyd’s family, to keep the march peaceful. “If you see anyone instigating something, call them out,” he said. “The world is looking at Houston, Texas today. Let’s give them something to see.” (Full disclosure: I watched ABC’s live coverage of the event for more than three hours. But due to technical difficulties, I was unable to watch Bun B’s full remarks as he addressed the crowd.)
Also addressing the crowd was Trae Tha Truth, albeit with a more confrontational message. “Today we gonna make a motherf–king statement, period,” he told the crowd. “We ain’t backing down from s–t. We have to tear up this system from the inside out. It’s not just about the bad cops, it’s about the people above those cops.”
Rev. Bill Lawson, founding pastor emeritus of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, spoke next. He was a notable figure in the 1960s civil rights movement. He marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1960, he and his wife bailed out 14 Texas Southern University students who were arrested after staging a sit-in at a Houston lunch counter. Two years later, Lawson founded Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, which has been a mainstay in Third Ward for nearly six decades. (He is the father of KTRK anchor Melanie Lawson.)
“I hope that George Floyd has also energized us,” Rev. Lawson said, “and made us feel that we have to change this bad system.” He urged the protesters: “Keep mobilized, and don’t let this be a one-day parade.” He stressed that further action was needed in order to effect change. “The next thing you have to do is not march, but register & vote,” Rev. Lawson told the crowd. “We have to get out of office those people who feel they have to energize & make possible the actions of those who suppress black folks.”
By this time, the crowd was beginning to grow. KTRK reporter Marla Carter initially said that some 20,000 people had gathered downtown, but that number quickly multiplied. By 4:20 pm, the number of people attending had mushroomed to more than double the expected turnout:
At 4:30 pm, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner addressed the crowd. “I want you to know that your marching, your demonstrating, your protesting, has not been in vain,” he told the crowd. He also vowed that it was time for the City of Houston to “review our own policies, procedures, and practices” in regards to police violence. “We are not perfect. We recognize that,” he said. But the mayor emphasized a commitment to respect and inclusion: “In our city, we respect every single person. Every person is important. We have to commit ourselves to making sure that we do better every single day.”
He urged the crowd to respect the wishes of George Floyd’s family, who asked for nonviolent demonstrations. “Today, it’s about lifting up the family of George Floyd. It’s about supporting 16 members of his family,” Turner said, as Floyd’s relatives stood behind him. “When we go home, they still have to deal with a relative that is no longer here.”
“We want to love on them. We want them to know that George did not die in vain,” Mayor Turner said. “All that they ask is that as we march, protest, and demonstrate, that we do it in such a way that we do not deface his name. They want us to be peaceful! They want us to be peaceful.” That peaceful tone was echoed by the family of George Floyd, who spoke next.
“We got to do it the right way,” Floyd’s brother said, addressing the need for peaceful protests. Terrence Floyd decried the violence and looting that have plagued the streets ever since Floyd’s death. “You’re shaming all our names, not just his name,” he said, referring to agitators and rioters. “It’s bigger than my brother. We got kids growing up. We tryin’ to break the cycle right now. We got this,” he said. “Please, man, let my brother rest in peace.”
At about 4:45 pm, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee took the stage. She underscored Floyd’s roots in Third Ward, where he was well-known and cared for by residents. It’s a community Jackson-Lee herself represents. “Go around Cuney Homes,” she told those gathered. “Stand near Jack Yates [High School] and have people show you want George Floyd was all about. (Floyd graduated from Yates, where he also played football.)
“I don’t want to walk this journey again. It is time for a revolution of change,” she declared, “for justice for all of us, no matter our color.” She told the assembly that on Thursday, she plans to unveil what she called “revolutionary legislation”, named after George Floyd. The bill “talks about a new culture for police” that involves recruitment and de-escalation, she said.
But Jackson-Lee also made it a point to empower the audience through her words. “My friend [Al] Green and I have the privilege, and sometimes the challenge, of representing the most powerful nation in the world — the nation you own. This country is not of itself. You are this nation. And I come to you today for you to take your nation. Take your nation. It’s your country.” The crowd broke out into cheers and applause.
They were even more fired up after remarks by Cong. Al Green. “I am angry,” he told the crowd, voicing the collective, latent rage that erupted after the killing of George Floyd. Green expressed outrage about Floyd’s asphyxiation by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin (now fired and criminally charged.) “We want an arrest, we want a conviction, and we want time! They’ve got to do some time.”
But Green added that mere charges and convictions aren’t enough. Like Jackson-Lee, he too is calling for broad and systemic change. “We’ve declared a War on Poverty,” Green said. “We declared a War on Drugs. We declared a war on cancer. It’s time to declare a war on racism in the United States of America.”
Circa 5:00 pm, the assembly concluded with a prayer by pastor John Gray. Pastor Gray once preached at Houston’s Lakewood Church; its pastor Joel Osteen (!!!) was in attendance. “This is our Emmett Till moment,” Gray told the crowd before beginning his prayer. “Let this anger turn into activism.”
The event remained largely peaceful throughout, although some minor skirmishes did break out after it ended at around 5:15 pm. Over an hour later, HPD Chief Art Acevedo was seen embracing and shaking hands with protesters at Walker and Crawford St. But as he made his way back to HPD’s downtown headquarters, he was confronted by angry protesters, asking why he hasn’t released body cam footage of 17 police shootings in Houston. As NBC News writer Mike Hixenbaugh reports:
As the sun began to set, after most of the estimated 60,000 marchers had gone home, a smaller group of activists surrounded Acevedo in the middle of a street and started demanding answers.
They wanted to know why his department had refused to release body camera footage from six recent deadly police shootings in Houston. Some in the crowd shouted insults, calling Acevedo a “f—— liar” and a “hypocrite.” As Acevedo turned away from the agitated crowd, someone doused him with a bottle of water. A man yelled for him to resign.
“Houston’s police chief wins national praise — but faces local anger over shootings and transparency”, NBC News
The controversy was foreshadowed by Mayor Turner during his remarks. “No system is perfect,” he said. “And every day you’ve got to work at it, to gain the public trust.” That will be a challenge as protests continue.
At 2 pm — less than an hour after charges were announced in the death of George Floyd — hundreds peacefully gathered at Discovery Green in downtown Houston to protest his murder. The protesters, some wearing masks, marched from Discovery Green to City Hall this afternoon. The Black Lives Matter Houston protest was scheduled from 2 until 4:30 pm, but may run longer.
Floyd was from Houston and went to high school in Houston’s 3rd Ward. He also had a daughter and other family here. In fact, Floyd lived in Houston for years before moving to Minneapolis in 2014. As a lifelong Houston resident, I rarely see large-scale demonstrations in the city I was raised. Which makes today’s big rally all the more surprising — and heartening.
The Houston Chronicle reports:
Several hundred people marched in a heated Black Lives Matter demonstration that spilled onto an Interstate 45 entrance ramp near downtown Houston Friday, joining national outrage about the death of George Floyd with chants of “I can’t breathe” and “No justice, no peace,” as they trekked from Discovery Green to City Hall.
Ashton Woods, Black Lives Matter Houston founder, said the rally was designed to make ensure that “people know that they have a place to come and express their anger and frustration.”
That anger and frustration was visible throughout the event. At one point, Woods was involved in a large fight that broke out outside City Hall after he was confronted by a man with a rifle. It was broken up by police and protesters, according to video footage from the scene.
Today, Hennepin County prosecutor Mike Freeman announced charges against former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin in connection with the murder of George Floyd. Freeman made the announcement in a press conference three hours ago.
“I’m here to announce that former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin is in custody. Former Minneapolis Police officer Derick Chauvin has been charged by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office with murder and with manslaughter,” Freeman said. “He has been charged with third-degree murder. We are in the process of continuing to review the evidence; there may be subsequent charges later. I failed to share with you: a detailed complaint will be made available to you this afternoon. I didn’t want to wait any longer to share the news that he’s in custody and has been charged with murder.”
“What about the other three officers?” one reporter asked.
“The investigation is ongoing; we felt it appropriate to focus on the most dangerous perpetrator,” Freeman said. “I must say that this case has moved with extraordinary speed. This conduct — this criminal action — took place on Monday evening, May 25th. Memorial Day. I am speaking to you at 1:00 [pm] on Friday, May 29th. That’s less than four days. That’s extraordinary. We have never charged a case in that kind of time frame, and we can only charge a case when we have sufficient admissible evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. As of right now, we have that.”
In response to a follow-up question about why officers weren’t arrested earlier, Freeman responded: “We have charged this case as quickly as sufficient admissible evidence to charge it has been investigated and presented to us.” But the questions didn’t end there. “Yesterday you said that these kind of things take time,” a reporter noted. “What’s changed between yesterday and this afternoon?”
“Fair question,” Freeman answered. “We have now been able to put together the evidence that we need. Even as late as yesterday afternoon, we didn’t have all that we needed. We have now found it, and we felt a responsibility to charge this as soon as possible.”
Freeman refused to speak about specific pieces of evidence that influenced the decision, but said: “I can only talk about what’s in the complaint. You will see in the complaint the evidence and put it all together. We needed to have it all. Let me just quickly say: we have evidence. We have the citizens’ camera video — that horrible horrific terrible thing that we’ve all seen over and over again. We have the officer’s body-worn camera; we have statements from some witnesses; we have our preliminary report from the medical examiner; we have discussions with an expert. All of that has come together. So we felt, in our professional judgment, it was time to charge, and we have so done.”
Reporters pressed for details about the three officers who stood by and watched Chauvin suffocate Floyd to death. Freeman refused to comment on whether those three officers would be charged. “I’m not going to speculate today on the other officers; they are under investigation. I anticipate charges, but I am not gonna get into that. Today ,we are talking about former officer Chauvin, [whom] we believe met the standard to be charged,” he insisted.
In response to questions about statutes, Freeman stressed that the investigation is still in progress and may result in more charges. “The investigation is ongoing. We have more discussions to do with our experts. This is the same charges that we made when we charged former Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor — the exact same 3rd degree charge and manslaughter charge,” he said. (Noor was charged for fatally shooting Justine Damond in 2016, after she called 911 to report a sexual assault happening near her home in Minnesota. He was sentenced to 12.5 years in prison.)
“This is by far the fastest we’ve ever charged a police officer,” Freeman emphasized. “Normally, these cases could take nine months to a year. You have to charge these cases very carefully because we have a difficult burden of proof. And let me just say something about that: We entrust our police officers to use certain amounts of force to do their job, to protect us. They commit a criminal act if they use this force unreasonably. We have to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt.”
“The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office is one of the few prosecuting offices in this country in the past five years to successfully prosecute a police officer for murder,” Freeman said. “And we did that on behalf of Justine Damond. We know how to do this. We are a very veteran prosecutor group; there’s a very veteran investigative group at the BCA. On top of that, we had great cooperation from the FBI and from United States Attorney Erica MacDonald. She may have some things to share with you soon, but she does that on her own timetable. I want to say to you that I’m very pleased about the level of cooperation which frankly, I would say to you, doesn’t necessarily happen in other jurisdictions, according to my friends and the national prosecutors.”
“Did public outrage play a role in the speed of this investigation?” a reporter asked.
“I am not insensitive to what’s happening in the streets,” Freeman replied. “My own home has been picketed regularly. My job is to do it only when we have sufficient evidence. We have it today,” Freeman said. “We do our level best to charge each case when we have the evidence to do it. But we cannot, and I will not, allow us to charge a case until it’s ready. This case is now ready, and we have charged it.”
The complaint has been completed; it is being processed now, and a signed copy will be made available to you today,” Freeman said before he left the podium.
ABC News reporter Terry Moran noted: “Under Minnesota law, third-degree murder is defined as ‘whoever without intent to affect the death of any person causes the death of another, by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others’. So it is not murder with intent; Mike Freeman was asked about that and he said this is the appropriate charge, given the evidence. But the investigation continues.”