Houston mayor and U.S. representatives join Tuesday night demonstration

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Houston mayor and U.S. representatives join Tuesday night demonstration


Protesters march through downtown Houston demanding accountability and justice for African American lives lost to police violence.
Protesters march through downtown Houston demanding accountability and justice for African American lives lost to police violence.
Pu Ying Huang for The Texas Tribune

HOUSTON — George Floyd’s funeral will be Monday in Houston, where 60,000 people marched for hours Tuesday, chanting, carrying signs and demanding “Justice 4 George Floyd.”

Led by popular Houston music artists Trae the Truth and Bun B, along with Mayor Sylvester Turner and U.S. Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green, the group marched nearly a mile from Discovery Green park to City Hall, where march leaders and organizers spoke.

“Say his name!” Turner and others urged the crowd at City Hall.

U.S. Rep. Will Hurd also posted a video of himself marching in Houston on Twitter.

The afternoon was a mostly peaceful demonstration, a stark contrast to how some protests unfolded in Austin, Dallas and San Antonio, where police arrested dozens of protesters and in some cases deployed tear gas.

In at least a few instances Tuesday, protesters stopped at intersections along the march to curse at police officers. Justin James Jones, a protester who shouted into a megaphone throughout the march, stood in front of a dozen officers mounted on horseback and sought to diffuse the encounters.

“Sitting there cursing at these officers isn’t gonna change a dang thing,” Jones said.

Floyd, a former Houston resident, was killed in Minneapolis police custody last week after a white officer was filmed kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes. — Mitchell Ferman

Texas reports 66,568 cases and 1,698 deaths

Texas reported 1,688 more cases of the new coronavirus Tuesday, bringing the total number of known cases to 66,568. In the last week, the state reported an average of 1,430 new cases per day.

Irion County reported its first case Tuesday; almost every county in Texas has reported at least one confirmed case of the virus. Harris County has reported the most cases, 12,664, followed by Dallas County, which has reported 10,462 cases. The Tribune publishes maps of the latest case numbers for each county and case rates per 1,000 residents.

The state has reported 20 additional deaths, bringing the statewide total to 1,698. In the last week, the state reported an average 23 additional deaths per day. Harris County reported three additional deaths Tuesday, bringing its total to 235 deaths, more than any other county.

Gov. Greg Abbott is looking at two metrics to justify his decision to restart the Texas economy — the positive test rate and hospitalization levels. As of yesterday, at least 986,224 viral tests and 107,452 antibody tests have been administered.

The positive test rate is the percentage of new cases to viral tests conducted. The current average daily infection rate of 5.4% is calculated by dividing the seven-day average of positive cases by the seven-day average of viral tests conducted. This shows how the situation has changed over time by deemphasizing daily swings. Public health experts want the infection rate to remain below 6%.

As of Tuesday, 1,773 patients are known to be hospitalized in Texas. That’s an increase of 17 patients from Monday. — Mandi Cai

George W. Bush calls on U.S. "to examine our tragic failures"

Expressing sorrow over the death of George Floyd, former President George W. Bush called on America "to examine our tragic failures” and work to end systemic racism.

“It remains a shocking failure that many African Americans, especially young African American men, are harassed and threatened in their own country,” Bush said in a letter sent out Tuesday.

Floyd, a black man, died in Minneapolis after a white police officer kneeled on his neck long past the point when he lost consciousness.

The former president, who lives in Dallas, praised the demonstrations seen across the country. “It is a strength when protesters, protected by responsible law enforcement, march for a better future," he said in the letter. "We know that lasting justice will only come by peaceful means. Looting is not liberation, and destruction is not progress. But we also know that lasting peace in our communities requires truly equal justice.” — Alana Rocha

Abbott: Texas does not need U.S. military's help responding to protests

During a press conference Tuesday in Dallas, Gov. Greg Abbott said that Texas does not need U.S. military help in containing protests over the death of George Floyd. Abbott's remarks came a day after President Donald Trump threatened to dispatch the military to states that cannot quell the unrest.

Abbott said that the Texas Department of Public Safety has already dispatched nearly 3,000 troopers across the state and that the Texas National Guard is “adding people by the day” to ensure peaceful protest.

Major Texas cities have seen several days of protests over Floyd’s death. The black Minnesota man died last week after a white police officer was filmed kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes. — Patrick Svitek

San Antonio closes Alamo Plaza for five more nights

San Antonio officials are shutting down the Alamo Plaza for the next five nights amid continued protests over George Floyd's death.

The plaza, which contains the famous Texas shrine, will be closed to car and foot traffic Tuesday through Saturday nights from 8:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. the next day. The city called the closure a "precautionary measure to minimize the possibility of civil disturbance and damage to sensitive structures."

The plaza has already been closed over the past three nights.

The city said it would "reassess later this week" whether the plaza needs to remain closed at any point beyond Sunday morning. — Patrick Svitek

Dallas police chief defends arrests of peaceful protesters

Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall said Tuesday that police were justified in arresting peaceful protesters Monday night, The Dallas Morning News reported.

Protesters broke the law, Hall said at a news conference, because they walked onto the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge and blocked traffic after police warned them to stop.

Hall said officers were in support of the protesters but warned them not to go on the bridge. Hundreds of people marched to the bridge, sparking a massive number of arrests. People were taken into custody, identified, charged and released, Hall said.

“Some are not happy with the decisions I made yesterday,” Hall said. “I am not here to make people happy. My job and our job is to keep this city safe.”

Protests across the state and nation are calling for justice after the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed in Minneapolis police custody. Footage from a now-viral video showed that Floyd died after a white officer kneeled on his neck long past the point when he lost consciousness.

That officer, Derek Chauvin, has been fired from the Minneapolis force and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Three other police officers shown in the video alongside Chauvin were also fired. — Clare Proctor

Texas officials urge calm after a weekend of protests

While curfews were in effect Monday night in Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio, officials in Texas expressed sympathy with the protesters' anger but also said there would be consequences for those who turn violent during demonstrations. Gov. Greg Abbott was in Dallas on Tuesday to provide an update on the state's response to the protests, which were sparked by the death of George Floyd, who was killed in Minneapolis custody. (You can see coverage of the news conference here.)

Abbott was joined by the mayors and police chiefs of Dallas and Fort Worth, the Texas Department of Public Safety director and the adjutant general of the Texas National Guard. Abbott said he has talked with mayors across the state.

In Houston, Floyd’s family joined Houston protesters Tuesday in a march toward City Hall. Floyd grew up in Houston's Third Ward.

Demonstrations in Austin have protested the death of Floyd as well as that of Michael Ramos, an unarmed black man who was fatally shot by an Austin police officer in late April. During one of those demonstrations, police critically injured a 20-year-old black protester Sunday when an officer shot him with "less-lethal" ammunition, according to Austin Police Chief Brian Manley.

As recent demonstrations have brought thousands of people into close contact with one another during the coronavirus pandemic, politicians and health experts have warned that the spread of the disease could hasten. Leaders of Texas’ largest cities balanced statements of support for demonstrators’ rights of free expression with warnings about the public health risks of gathering so close.

For protesters, the anger has outweighed their fear of getting sick.

“I didn’t care if I was exposed to COVID,” said Renee Lopez, who attended an Austin protest. She tried to stay away from the thickest crowds, but “I had this single-mindedness to go and protest because I feel like I just can’t take it anymore.” — Texas Tribune staff

Matthew McConaughey sends 25,000 surgical masks to El Paso facility

Actor Matthew McConaughey and his wife, Camila, mailed thousands of surgical masks to University Medical Center in El Paso as part of the Oscar-winning actor’s efforts to supply front-line medical workers with protective gear.

The El Paso Times reported that 25,000 masks were delivered to the hospital via UPS and that 20,000 more will be delivered to the El Paso County Medical Society, a group of about 800 physicians, residents and medical students. The masks were provided by Lincoln Motor Co., which McConaughey promotes in commercials. — Julián Aguilar

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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2020/06/02/texas-updates-george-floyd/.

"Houston mayor and U.S. representatives join Tuesday night demonstration" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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