Police in Houston, Texas moved to separate a demonstration in support of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin from a smaller group supporting the acquittal of the man who shot and killed him, 29-year-old George Zimmerman.
“Justice was served in court already,” one pro-Zimmerman protester told KHOU-TV on Sunday. “We have a judicial system for a reason. We used it, and it was done. There ain’t no reason to be shutting our streets down.”
The march through the River Oaks community was one of several demonstrations around the country supporting Martin’s family and criticizing Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, but another member of the pro-Zimmerman group said the neighborhood, Joshua Vorning, told KHOU the neighborhood had nothing to do with the teen’s death.
“They started making threats on the people down here in River Oaks and we came down here to prevent them from doing anything to the people in River Oaks,” Vorning said of the pro-Martin group. “The people in River Oaks haven’t done anything. So there’s no reason for these people to be here.”
The Houston Chronicle reported that the group of about 80 people supporting Zimmerman mobilized in response to a protest organized by local New Black Panthers activist Quanell X in the River Oaks neighborhood, which one pro-Martin demonstrator described as the local equivalent of Sanford, Florida, the affluent community where Martin died after a confrontation with Zimmerman. Zimmerman was acquitted on July 13 of second-degree murder charges for the fatal shooting.
At the time he organized the rally, Quanell X was quoted as telling supporters, “If you feel that you just got to mug somebody because of your hurt and your pain, go to River Oaks and mug you some good white folks.” He subsequently said the remarks were meant as a call to action, rather than criminal activity.
“To be honest with you, we don’t give a damn about anybody supporting George Zimmerman and gunning down a child,” Quanell X told the Chronicle on Sunday.
The Los Angeles Times reported that local authorities promised a “massive” response, with more than 100 officers deployed to keep the two groups on opposite ends of the street. Both sides marched through the neighborhood without incident, though members of the counter-protest also expressed their opposition to President Barack Obama’s remarks on July 19 responding to the verdict.
“He’s supposed to be a president who unites us instead of dividing us,” one demonstrator, Scott Harmon, told the Times.
Watch KHOU’s report from the scenes of both protests, aired Sunday, below.