HPD Chief: Police Prepared For Opposing Rallies In River Oaks

Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland, 2012
This weekend, the River Oaks neighborhood will be ground zero for two opposing groups of protesters. It all has to do with last week's acquittal of George Zimmerman, the man who claimed self-defense in shooting and killing unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida.

Tomorrow, pastors and other community leaders are organizing a rally at City Hall. It will be part of nationwide peaceful protests of Zimmerman’s acquittal called for by the Reverend Al Sharpton.

But it’s Sunday that has Houston police prepare for the worst.

As a response to a planned rally in Houston’s affluent River Oaks neighborhood, organized by Houston New Black Panther leader Quanell X, an opposing group has formed to counter the protest.

A Facebook group called “G. Zimmerman River Oaks Stand Your Ground Event” has called on counter-protesters to bring their concealed handgun licenses if they plan on bringing guns. A post that has since been removed read, “Keep in mind...this is a ‘stand your ground’ state..so if you are charged on or someone moves aggressively...shoot them.”

The group’s administrator later clarified that he posted that comment because River Oaks residents had told him that they were afraid protesters might break into their houses or harm them. He also emphasized that the counter-protest will be peaceful.

Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland says there’s not much he can do if licensed gun owners want to bring their weapons to the event.

“You know, this is Texas. People can carry their handguns if they’ve got a concealed handgun license. So no, I have no authority to stop that.”

He says he understands if people are afraid but that HPD is prepared and has enough resources to ensure that protesters and residents are safe.

Assistant Chief Mark Eisenman, who heads the department’s Homeland Security Command, says HPD has reached out to both groups.

“… As we do with any protest group. We always reach out to form dialogue and have those conversations of how they can lawfully, civilly protest and voice their opinions.”

The chief wouldn’t go into specifics of how the police will handle the event, but he said HPD will use all the resources necessary to keep the protests peaceful and safe.

He also says he understands the volatility of the protests.

“It speaks to a broader issue across American, who we are as a country, who we are as just from a race relations, community relations, neighbor relations … It does, it speaks to a broader issue. Can individuals in this nation sit down and civilly disagree and have open and honest dialogue and respect each other’s positions and opinions?”

The protest is expected to start around 4 p.m. on Sunday. The Saturday rally starts at 11 a.m. in front of City Hall.

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Florian Martin

Reporter/NewsLab Coordinator

Florian Martin is the KUHF NewsLab Coordinator. While guiding and overseeing interns, he works on his own stories and is always on call to cover breaking news and other media events...