In George Floyd-inspired protests, Texas organizers find new allies in quest for police reforms

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Protesters gather at a rally for George Floyd in Houston. Floyd, a former Houston resident, was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis during an attempted arrest. Pu Ying Huang for The Texas Tribune

Editor's note: This story contains explicit language.

As the mourning of George Floyd’s death spilled over from the first weekend of protests and passed the seven-day mark, Durrel Douglas opted to stay off the streets.

The Houston organizer had been one of those holding the megaphone six years earlier when outrage over the police killing of another black man, Michael Brown, reached his city. This time, he turned his attention to researching what other cities have done to address racism in policing, looking for ways to leverage the energy of the protests into change for Houston.

“There are people who are part of this movement now who haven’t been to City Hall,” said Douglas, a co-founder of the Houston Justice Coalition. “They’re about to do just that because, finally, there’s something that has brought them to do that.”

Floyd’s death has emerged as a potentially pivotal moment in an enduring movement for racial justice that has been marked by a pattern of steady activism, punctuated by eruptions of protests when working within the system proved ineffectual.

Long before millions around the world watched the minutes leading up to Floyd's death on their screens, reaction to tragedy at the hands of police had taken on a familiar frustrating pattern for organizers like Douglas — protests and collective calls for change that waned into occasional incremental reforms.

But in the persistence of the demonstrations in Floyd’s name — sustained by newcomers joining those who have long been leading the fight — Texas organizers and activists sense a wider opening to convince more of those in power that the too often deadly interactions between black people and police are more than anecdotal. It’s impossible to forecast how much change will come of the reckoning spurred by Floyd’s death, but organizers are pinning their hopes for reform on transforming the scale and momentum of the protests into local accountability.