HOUSTON -- As explosions rocked Syria over the weekend, dozens of Houstonians held a peaceful protest in the Galleria area, calling for the release of a journalist with local ties.

The Houston family of 31-year-old Austin Tice has not heard from him in more than two weeks. The freelance journalist disappeared in Syria while covering the country s civil war.

He s an American hero, Ayham Tibi said. He left everything in this country to go show the whole world the truth.

The crowds have been gathering at the intersection every Sunday for nearly nineteen months. Many say that they will continue to until President Bashar Assad is no longer in power.

Maher Hulou fled from Syria this summer, and knows how dangerous the country can be for reporters. He said they can get caught in the crossfire of shells, or else by the government.

It s all prohibited, so if you re filming any outside media and you re captured, it s the end. said Hulou. He left everything in this country to go show the whole world the truth when a lot of people don t even want to go near there.

One woman at the gathering said her uncle had been killed by a stray bullet.

It s a calamity in so many ways, Shaireen Jasser said. No one is immune.

The ambassador to the Czech Republic said Tice was detained near Damascus and said he is alive.

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