Houstonians stage demonstrations over Michael Brown

HOUSTON -- The U.S. Justice Department has launched an investigation into the police shooting of an unarmed teen, 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the impact is spreading. Now a national organization is calling for a review of police shootings here in Houston.

The National Bar Association is asking federal authorities to look at allegations of unjustified and excessive force by police in five cities, including Houston.

Police department data shows that over the last decade, there have been 100 fatal shootings involving HPD officers and 136 fatal shootings involving Harris County Sheriff's Deputies.

Thursday night, Houstonians gathered at two separate demonstrations, calling for change here in Houston, before we ever look like the streets of Ferguson.

"Do y'all want to make a change?" an organizer called out to a group of Houston demonstrators. "Yes!" they shouted back.

Out of tragedy, violence, and chaos, can come opportunity.

"Anybody can be angry. Oh that's cute they're angry, but what are they doing? What comes after this, what's next" said one demonstrator.

Another protester, Kendal Moss added, "It becomes an opportunity to discuss how police respond to things like this."

So a group of young people gathered in Discovery Green to get that conversation started.

"We don't need the martial law here in Houston so we're going to be smart," said the event's organizer, who preferred to go by his stage name "Hoodstarchantz."

It was a small group, but organizers say that's how it starts.

A second gathering the same evening in MacGregor Park drew a larger crowd and grew to an even broader message.

"It's a simple enough message: Justice, justice is for everyone," said protester David Hudson III.

The crowd there held a moment of silence, joining a movement across the country, supporting Michael Brown, the unarmed teen killed by a Ferguson, Missouri officer.

But the signs demonstrators held didn't just say Michael's name. Folks shared their own stories of what they say was discrimination, profiling or excessive force.

"I've been tasered," said one man.

"I know how real it is," a woman added, talking about racial profiling.

"I know we have lots of wonderful police officers who do their job, but unfortunately there is a culture of dehumanizing people, being too hostile, too aggressive that we need to stop," said demonstrator Morenike Giwa Onaiwu.

For Thursday night, officers watched from the sidelines, there to protect, as organizers hope the next step is to engage.

One demonstrator said, "What we want to do is step forward."

For their part, Houston Police point to their community policing strategies and efforts to recruit officers who reflect the city's diversity.

Right now, 48 percent of HPD's 5,300 officers are white, 24 percent are Hispanic, 22 percent are black, 6 percent are Asian or Pacific Islander, and .17 percent are Native American or Alaskan Native.

HPD administrators add that 15 percent of officers are female, above the national average of 12 percent.


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