Houston’s mayor and more than 40 community and faith leaders spoke out against hatred Wednesday in the wake of the attacks in Charlottesville.
"This is a defining moment, and the question is: How are we going to answer?" asked Mayor Sylvester Turner during a press conference at City Hall Wednesday afternoon.
Turner says many of the issues he’s faced with as mayor start at the state or national level and eventually spread to Houston.
On Wednesday, Turner told KHOU 11 News he’s holding the press conference to urge Houstonians to continue to be inclusive and not allow outside forces to divide the city.
"We are not -- not -- going to allow hatred, bigotry, to get a toehold in our city,” Turner said to applause. “That's the Houston that I know.”
Leaders offered prayers and wrote condolences for Heather Heyer, who died in the Charlottesville attack, and get well wishes to Houston's Natalie Romero, who was one of 19 injured.
Faith leaders warned against letting hateful words and actions “breathe light into dark history."
“The gathering of extreme hate in Charlottesville is something we have not seen in at least a decade, and it continues a troubling pattern,” said Dayan Gross, Southwest Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League.
Turner said Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer called him three weeks earlier, concerned about the violence that ultimately happened. Turner says the two talked about keeping opposing sides of protestors apart while still giving people their First Amendment rights.
"I know that our own activists would not support the tearing up and the tearing down of our city,” said Chief Art Acevedo of the Houston Police Department.
Chief Acevedo pointed out the problems in Charlottesville came from outsiders, but said no matter who shows up for local protests, his department has the intelligence, community relationships and response group to take back control if the situation turns violent.
"We will always be over-prepared for these events,” Chief Acevedo said. “I'd rather be criticized about being over-prepared and over-deployed than being under-prepared and under-deployed.
Mayor Turner also urged people to be patient and avoid vandalizing the city's two Confederate monuments. He says he's putting together a team, including historians from local universities to look at the appropriate context and placement for each one and decide how to best move forward.