Houston's River Oaks neighborhood becomes battleground central in the Trayvon Martin debate Sunday. Those still upset with George Zimmerman's not guilty verdict plan to march through the affluent area, but "stand your ground" backers are organizing a response.
“If everyone else can protest and block Highway 288 or rush government buildings because they support Trayvon, we should be able to voice our opinion without feeling threatened,” says 'John Smith' who started a Facebook page dubbed the 'G. Zimmerman River Oaks Stand Your Ground Event.'
'Smith' tells KTRH News he is using an alias after receiving alleged threats on Facebook and by telephone.
“We're not going against anybody, we're not trying to stop a rally, we're not butting heads, we just want to be able to use our rights,” he says.
The New Black Panthers' Quannel X likens the response to civil rights clashes of the 1950s and 60s.
“I think it is very, very insulting and disrespectful,” he says. “I think they are looking to intimidate or frighten some of us, but I guarantee none of us will be intimidated or frightened.”
Quannel X hopes emotions are kept in-check.
“Some of the behavior of white groups who would support counter protest marches against black marches in the 60s, there would be spitting, hitting and punching black protesters,” he says. “If any of that behavior takes place on Sunday, we won't tolerate that.”
Houston Police plan to respond appropriately.
“We certainly have plans to ensure people are allowed to exercise their Constitutional rights, and do that safely and peacefully,” Chief Charles McClelland told reporters Thursday. “I have no doubt we're going to make sure that happens.”
However, McClelland admitted things don't always go as planned.
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“Sometimes leaders of protesters lose control of their groups, and sometimes their followers don't follow the script,” he said of this week's protest in the Third Ward which briefly blocked Highway 288. “I think we could have done a better job of planning and using different strategies to make sure the highway wasn't blocked.”
Before the River Oaks rally takes place Sunday, Houston area pastors, civic leaders and elected officials will gather outside City Hall Saturday morning as part of the Rev. Al Sharpton's nationwide "Call to Action."