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killing of George Floyd. Photograph by Todd Spoth
On the podium, in 90-degree heat, the Floyd family congregated with speakers, including Turner, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, civil rights attorney Lee Merritt, and longtime Houston civil rights activist Reverend Bill Lawson, 91 years old and in a wheelchair.
To kick off the speeches, Bun B took the lectern, while Trae stood to his left. “This is what representing Houston looks like,” Bun B said into the microphone. He thanked city leaders for their support before calling for more transparency from police departments, for laws that would hold racist and overzealous officers accountable, and for an independent community review board with subpoena power. “If you’re with me, say his name!” he began, in call-and-response. “George Floyd!” the crowd replied.
Then Bun B introduced Trae, “a brother of few words.” Trae leaned on the lectern as he addressed the crowd. “I want to thank every city, every state, that stood up for George Floyd that didn’t even know George Floyd,” he said. “From the city of Houston, Texas, we salute y’all a thousand percent.”
When the march began, nobody could have said how it would go. Videos of marches escalating to violence in Minneapolis and Seattle had been circulating for days. And this was a march in George Floyd’s hometown. Turner, for one, said he was nervous. If there was ever a time for levelheaded community leadership, it was now. “We had our own policing,” said Rogers, referring to protesters who arrived on horseback. “That presence says, ‘Okay, all right, it’s not gonna turn into a shit show. We’re going to control this.’ ”
“THEY ARE RELIABLE. THEY DO WHAT THEY SAY, AND THEY MEAN WHAT THEY SAY, AND THEY GET DONE WHAT THEY SAY. THAT’S A BIG, BIG DEAL.”
The march became a kind of trust test: trust between the organizers and city officials, trust between city officials and police, trust between the organizers and others marching. “I would run across large groups that were starting to assemble,” said Turner, “and you could tell it was getting very tense, especially with the police officers. I got on the phone, and I called Trae and said, ‘Trae, look: on this corner, man, there’s a large group that has assembled, and I can tell that it’s getting very tense, a lot of verbal exchanges.’ And he said, ‘Mayor, I’ve got it. My crew is on the way.’ And we exchanged those type of messages for the next couple of hours.”