Three Katy ISD students have organized a protest against racial injustice at Katy Park from 5-8 p.m. Thursday in response to the death of George Floyd, a Houston native that was killed while in the …
Three Katy ISD students have organized a protest against racial injustice at Katy Park from 5-8 p.m. Thursday in response to the death of George Floyd, a Houston native that was killed while in the custody of Minneapolis, Minn. police officers March 25. The three said they had organized the protest because they felt there was a gap in addressing the issue of racial injustices in the Katy area.
“We saw the lack of activity in Katy compared to everything going on. We realized it’s all or nothing (and we) hit the ground running after that,” one of the students said.
The students said they felt it was important to have the event, especially in the Katy area where – despite its extraordinary diversity – those of color are not often represented in most aspects of the greater Katy community. The idea is to have an event that is inviting to everyone in Katy to understand the issue at hand and to gather the entire community together to better understand the frustrations of the minority communities associated with disparities in the United States today.
“I feel like we’re trying to show that this community is unified no matter what their skin color and black lives really do matter,” one organizer said. “I feel like it would be more inviting, because honestly, I do feel that (minority) communities or black communities kind of feel unwelcome, because it’s so easy to feel unwelcome when you’re surrounded in a room full of white people and you’re the only black person there. But – I do feel like the amount of people coming to this protest, and the amount of (skin) colors and the amount of backgrounds – I feel like it would be a really cool way to make it more inviting.”
The students said that about 1,100 people have registered for the event through their Eventbrite page and they expect about 1,000 to actually show up as of 4 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.
Katy residents had expressed alarm and concern that the protest might turn into riots as have been seen in other cities when they were first made aware of it earlier in the week after another regional media outlet ran a short piece about the event. Some simply wanted to know more while others made threatening remarks, students said.
The students praised Katy Police Chief Noe Diaz for his help in changing their initial plans to a larger, safer location and connecting them with adults that would support them in creating an event that was as safe as possible and honored George Floyd.
“We had a call with (Diaz) and he said that as a Mexican man himself, he understands our fight, he understands what we’re trying to do and he will do his best to fully support us,” one organizer said.
Prior to Diaz stepping in to help, the group had originally planned to host the event at Mary Jo Peckham Park in downtown Katy.
“We chose Mary Jo Peckham Park as the original venue because it was a park both of us were familiar with,” one of the initial two student planners said. “We had been there several times, and we liked that it was a large area of open space so that people could both congregate while simultaneously social distance to the best of their abilities.”
As planning progressed, they were joined by a third KISD student, they said. Two of the students are members of March for Our Lives Houston and the organizers are part of a group they’ve dubbed Katy for Justice. Fort Bend County District Attorney Brian Middleton and interim Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins. Eight students in addition to themselves will also speak at the event.
A civil rights lawyer will meet with the organizers before the event to discuss what they are allowed to do within the bounds of a legal, peaceful protest, they said.
With Diaz’s help, the students were able to reach out to county and state officials in addition to obtaining help with security, they said. Security will be headed up by the office of Harris County Commissioner for Precinct 5 Ted Heap’s office with the Katy Police Department assisting and Chief Deputy Brian Harris from the constable’s office leading the security effort.
Katy Park is not within city limits, placing the event in the precinct 5 constable’s office’s area of responsibility.
The three students said they were aware of the responsibility that comes with organizing the event. They praised the approximately 30 student volunteers that have agreed to help them clean up the park after the event. They said they want to use their First Amendment rights, not damage the community. They also said they are aware that there is no guaranty that no bad actors will show up, but by working with law enforcement they are working to have a completely peaceful event. They are also asking that all attendees wear masks and practice social distancing in order to not exacerbate the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
The student organizers were not identified in this story because they are minors and there are safety concerns including threats toward them on social media. The students attend Cinco Ranch and Seven Lakes high schools.