Sam Houston statue removal rumors spark protest at Hermann Park

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A crowd of protesters, some with weapons and Confederate flags on display, showed up at Hermann Park Saturday worried about rumored efforts to remove the Sam Houston statue.

"We want to preserve our history, we want to preserve our country," one demonstrator said.

But others there to simply enjoy the park were concerned about how some protesters chose to display guns.

"Free speech is important and everyone's granted that, but I just get nervous when I see that many weapons in one place," one cyclist said. "The park [is] shared space -- everyone comes here, so it felt a little more intrusive."

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who provided a heavy law enforcement presence as a precaution, said the protesters were well within their rights.

"There's a very distinct line between first amendment activity and criminal activity. We just want to make sure that people don't cross that line, and people are safe out here," he said in a Periscope interview.

Eyewitness News knows of no formal effort to have the statue removed -- the mere discussion of the possibility of its removal on social media sparked the protest.

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