A Black Lives Matter demonstration outside of the Paul Elizondo Tower on Tuesday struck a different tone than recent days as organizers and participants directly called out San Antonio Police Officers and Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales for “writing off black families.”
Nearly 100 people gathered outside while a dozen police officers stood behind safety barriers watching as they chanted: “Unite, convict, send those killer cops to jail! The whole damn system is racist as hell!”
“We are not here to make the police comfortable,” organizer Kimaya Factory said. “San Antonio is one of the most segregated cities in America. … This is not a joke.”
The demonstration highlighting the tumultuous relationship between police officers and the black community comes as previous event organizers were chastised on social media for allowing SAPD officers to address the crowd and organizing with them in advance of the event when “they haven’t gotten anything done for [the black community].”
The Tuesday afternoon demonstration took place on the heels George Floyd’s funeral in his hometown of Houston and marks the 11th day of protest locally in honor of black people who have died by police officers’ hands throughout the U.S.
“We are screaming out for justice for George Floyd, but we are also out here for the people in our community,” Factory said. “And that doesn’t mean showing up at the courthouse when ‘Black Lives Matter’ is trending on Twitter.”
During the nearly five-hour demonstration, participants marched from the Paul Elizondo Tower while blasting hip-hop group N.W.A.’s “F*** the Police,” as they made their way to Travis Park where Sam Cooke’s civil rights anthem “A Change Is Gonna Come” played as the crowd chugged water and waited for the next speaker to take the stage.
The group then headed to the Alamo, where they held signs up for a moment of silence in front of armed Texas Department of Public Safety officers, before making their way to the River Walk, where they marched to the Arneson Theater, and returning to the courthouses downtown.
Oliv Ryan, a local transgender activist, took to the megaphone to tell the crowd that while “we all have things we are fighting, right now is not the right time for us to fight for ourselves.”
“This is a fight for the black community, and it’s not our place as brown people to raise our voice, right now it’s time to amplify the voices of our black brothers and sisters,” Ryan said. “Your anger and sadness are valid, and we are here because we see your community struggle.”
Demonstrators frequently confronted police officers for appearing to smirk, laugh at, or express any negativity toward those participating in the Black Lives Matter event. Police officers did not respond to the confrontations.
Meanwhile, another Black Lives Matter event five miles Northeast of downtown in Terrell Hills drew more than 200 people to a tree-lined median for an evening demonstration honoring Floyd.
Like the population of Terrell Hills, the crowd was predominantly white. Many parents brought their children along, including neighborhood resident Sloan Thomas, a black man, who came with his wife and three kids.
Thomas, who has lived in Terrell Hills since 2008, said he felt it was important to come out when he heard that the event was happening.
“I’m supporting the cause and coming out and trying to do my part and also, mainly, introducing my kid to positive protests and what the cause is,” he said.
“To see people who are not my color and who believe we should all be treated equal … it’s extremely important and exciting to see people who live around me,” he added. “It’s great to see faces that I know support the same cause that we should all be treated equal.”
Former Texas House Speaker Joe Straus and his wife Julie walked among the crowd, as well as Spurs Sports and Entertainment CEO RC Buford.
Thomas was one of the few black protesters in the crowd, and his wife is white. They have two sons ages 6 and 8 and one daughter, age 5. He’s already had to explain police brutality to his two sons, he said.
“My middle [son] was scared when we had the conversation with him,” Thomas said. “We haven’t told my youngest yet. We’re doing our best and are very thankful for the opportunity to speak, but also the fact that we have neighbors protesting. We can’t do it by ourselves. There’s no way.”
While the Terrell Hills demonstration ended within an hour, downtown demonstrators continued their march and conversation through to sundown.
“Police are violent, we will not be silent,” Ryan led the crowd in chanting. “You have blood on your hands, SAPD. You can ignore us, but you will hear us.”
James Brown, a 60-year-old activist, said that if the crowd wants to be heard, they have to keep demonstrating and not stop until change happens.
“If there is anything that I have learned, it’s that we have to stick together for anything to change. We have to keep protesting what is going on,” Brown said. “We have to make people see the problem with things like mental illness in jails by” not letting up until they make the change.
As sundown drew near, downtown demonstrators found themselves outside of the Paul Elizondo Tower, with some participants, and some passersby, butting heads regarding the best way to go about representing the change needed to protect black lives in America.
Demonstrators, frustrated with media presence and commentary from those who didn’t participate in the demonstration, argued back and forth about the need for people to be heard.
“There are uncomfortable conversations we have to have, but we can’t just scream ‘black lives matter,’” one demonstrator said. “The system is absolutely flawed. Not all cops are invalid, we get it. But there has to be change, and this can be a starting point.”