'It's our city. Don't let 'em take it,' HPD Chief Art Acevedo says

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The crowd's chants roared so loud marchers couldn't always hear who was speaking as thousands gathered in Houston in support of George Floyd and in protest of police brutality.

That didn't stop the estimated 60,000 people who lined the steps of City Hall and surrounding blocks on Tuesday, wearing shirts with Floyd's name and holding signs that said the Houston native's last words, "I can't breathe."

Raising his fist in the air, one of Floyd's family members yelled his name while the crowd echoed it back: "George Floyd."

"We're all we got. We're all we need," he said.

One woman we spoke with said although she wasn't within earshot of the stage, she still came with her daughter and grandchildren so they could experience the historic civil rights moment.

Floyd, who grew up in Houston's Third Ward, died May 25 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Video captured from a bystander shows an officer holding his knee on Floyd's neck as he cries out more than a dozen times, "I can't breathe," and eventually stops moving.

Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd's death. Three other officers at the scene of Floyd's death have not been charged.

"You have marched, demonstrated, made your voices heard and let me tell you, people that are in elected office, in a position of power, we are listening," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said to the crowd. "It's not important just to listen. It is important for us to do."

RELATED: George Floyd family members join 60,000 protesters at Houston march

The march's organizers, Houston entertainers Bun B and Trae Tha Truth, said the protest symbolized a moment where the family could speak up for justice and share their pain with the world.

"We came to make sure we represent for the family," Trae the Truth told ABC13 during the march. "The goal right now is to get all four of them officers, anybody that had anything to do with that wrongdoing, held accountable. That's the main mission right now."

Turner said the march isn't in vain, acknowledging there are ways to improve policing and community relations.

"We should always, on a constant daily basis, review our own practices, procedures and actions," Turner said. "There are a lot of things that we need to do. We are not perfect. We recognize that. We also recognize that in our city ... there are communities that have been underserved and under-resourced for decades."

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo has joined protesters throughout the week, speaking out against the use of force that contributed to Floyd's death.

During Tuesday's march, Acevedo and other officers knelt alongside community members for about 30 seconds during a moment of silence.

This year, Houston has had eight officer-involved shootings so far. He told 13 Investigates' Ted Oberg last week that he is contemplating changes to HPD's policy on releasing body worn camera videos, but that sometimes it's the family who doesn't want the video released.

"When we have a use of force incident, we take care of business and we don't just whitewash stuff. We take care of it and I think that when you look at what's happened here in the last three and a half years, you can't deny that," Acevedo told Oberg as he marched with protesters.

Outside of Houston and Minneapolis, Floyd's death spurred protests across the nation as civil rights leaders from the past and present expressed frustrations over decades of racial inequality.

RELATED: Civil rights pioneer Rev. Lawson joins march for George Floyd in Houston

Even at 91 years old, Rev. Bill Lawson, pastor emeritus of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, said it was important to attend the march in person.

"The people who have marched with you are people not longer simply in Minneapolis, no longer in Houston, but all over the world. People have marched in London, in Australia, in Paris, every place you can imagine," Lawson said during a speech. "People who have been marching for this one man, George Floyd. I wonder if that cop who stood on his neck had any idea that it would create this kind of trauma. If he had any idea that he would have all the people in the word angry because of what he did. But even more than that, angry because of what the white system has done."

Floyd's family called for a peaceful march. The trip to City Hall and back to Discovery Green remained calm, but the hours after the march ended were, at times, tense as some protesters chanted while surrounded by officers wearing face shields.

Dozens of protesters laid face down on the ground with their hands behind their backs and chanted "I can't breathe" in unison.

Another protester walked back and forth along a line of officers and through a megaphone yelled "What's our name?" as other supporters responded with "George Floyd."

At one point, the megaphone was within inches of an officers' face. A few seconds later, a bystander told ABC13, "I came out here to make a change. Us protesting is not going to make a change at all. The only way we're going to change is if we get in the same position as (the officers)."

As the evening progressed, some protesters threw water bottles at officers. The officers remained calm and continued asking residents to leave, telling the large crowds that it was an unlawful assembly.

Throughout the march, and into the evening hours, Acevedo was surrounded by dozens of protesters. At one point, he reassured them of his support.

"I got a call, the mayor said 'hey chief you need to get down here,' so I came. I asked my people what's going on. There's a white naked guy messing (expletive) up out there and I said, 'he's going to jail," Acevdo told the crowd, who cheered and embraced him with hugs. "It's our city. Don't let 'em take it."

RELATED: Most powerful moments from march for George Floyd in Houston

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, said it's "time for a revolution of change for the dignity of all of us no matter what our color."

She said later this week, she plans to introduce "revolutionary legislation" that will address a new culture for police, recruitment and de-escalation.

"'I can't breathe.' We will never in George Floyd's name hear that again and we will honor him," Lee said. "We will name a bill in the U.S. Congress after George Floyd to be able to have his memory never to be forgotten, never to be ignored."

As the march came to an end, Turner said he was proud of the city's largely peaceful turnout. Now, he said, the focus is on honoring Floyd and for those in positions of power to work toward fighting similar injustices in the future.

"It was a very emotional day," Turner said. "Houston just turned out, to see humanity - very diverse, people from all walks of life in our city came together to pay tribute to George Floyd and to support his family. They are the ones who are going to be missing him for the rest of their lives."
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