Protesters swarm City Hall, courthouse over Zimmerman verdict

By Mike Morris, Robert Stanton | July 16, 2013

Photo By Johnny Hanson/Houston Chronicle
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Friends try to calm down, David Wright, top, who reacted after he was told he couldn't enter the Bob Casey Federal Courthouse as more than 100 protestors organized outside the courthouse in response to George Zimmerman's acquittal in the death of unarmed, black Florida teen Trayvon Martin Tuesday, July 16, 2013, in Houston. The group also protested at the city council meeting at City Hall and the Harris County Criminal Justice Center. "As this city progresses nothing much changes," Wright said, who's father, Carl Hampton, was an activist and member of the People's Party ll who died in a shootout with police in 1970. "Here is a public place and they are just abusing their authority. How you can say what is right and wrong when you are doing wrong."

Dozens of protesters marched on the U.S. Federal Courthouse and Houston City Hall Tuesday to protest a Florida jury's Saturday acquittal of George Zimmermanin the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

City Council was forced to recess at about 2:40 p.m. when several dozen protesters who had been watching the proceedings gathered outside the chamber, then flooded the room shouting "No justice, no peace!" and "Trayvon Martin!"

Two of the protesters were detained by police after being cleared from the chamber. No one was arrested at the courthouse.

"Don't get arrested for no reason: Go down the stairs, guys," an officer told the restless crowd as it was pushed toward the stairwell to the first floor.

"No reason?" one protester responded. "We're getting shot in the streets!"

Asked why the group had interrupted the meeting, protester Kofi Taharka said, "We didn't disrupt the meeting, we just asked to speak to our elected representatives, none of whom have made a statement about this national travesty, tragedy. They should have spoken before today. If we can't get no justice, we can't have business as usual."

Protesters carried signs, wore T-shirts bearing the Florida teen's likeness, or carried bags of Skittles and bottles of iced tea, the items Martin purchased before his death.
Pastor James Dixon spoke before council after the meeting resumed, inviting city officials to a Saturday event honoring Martin.

"Any American should be able to walk down any street in America. The laws in Florida are different than the laws in Texas, but this incident was a terrible tragedy," Mayor Annise Parker said to Dixon. "I appreciate your sentiment that is important for all of us to express ourselves and to do it in a peaceful and appropriate manner."

More than a dozen members of the Houston Police Department's Mounted Patrol Unit monitored the protest as it moved from the courthouse to City Hall.

"We're here because we hope this will bring some attention to the plight of young black men in this country with regard to police brutality, with regard to shooting, and especially with regard to 'Stand My Ground,'" said protesterValerie Michaud, 57. The verdict, she said, "says we are fair game. It doesn't matter the value of our life. We have no value as far as the larger majority is concerned. That's what that acquittal means."
Protester Nota Koerber echoed that sentiment.

"This is endemic of a whole climate that's been created over the last couple of years, it's endemic of the political climate that goes along with the 'stand your ground' laws, the attacks on the Voting Rights Act, kind of like a clamp down on minorities, where we don't feel comfortable walking freely in our own country," she said.

Tuesday's demonstrations followed a Monday march that, for a time, blocked traffic on the South Freeway.