Houston protestors clash outside Islamic convention
Tempers flared Saturday when more than 100 protesters and counterprotesters squared off outside a large Islamic convention at the George R. Brown Convention Center Saturday afternoon.
A Texas Patriot Network member ran across barriers erected by police around noon and began punching a counter-protestor outside the 55th Annual Islamic Society of North American convention. Three people were handcuffed, briefly detained and released under the condition they leave the protests for the day, L.J. Satterwhite, assistant chief over homeland security for the Houston Police Department said.
“We make to make sure that whatever happens, it happens peacefully and no one gets harmed,” Satterwhite said. “We have been very blessed to avoid a lot of the problems that other cities have seen. We want to keep that track record going.”
The convention, which runs through Monday, will draw thousands of Muslims to downtown for talks, prayers, workshops, arts, entertainment and festivities.
Doc Greene, a local radio talk show personality, helped organize the protest that drew roughly two dozen members from the Texas Patriot Network and white supremicist groups. “We’re clearly outnumbered,” he said. “But, we’re never out powered.”
Separated by police barriers, a group of roughly 80 protesters held signs and chanted phrases, including “Nazis, go home.”
Counter protestors included members of the Houston Socialist Movement, International Socialist Organization, National Domestic Workers Alliance, Refuse Fascism, Socialist Alternative, Young Communist League, Huey P. Newton Gun Club and New Black Panther Party.
“We wanted to let them know that Houston is a majority black and brown city and they are not welcome here. They are not wanted here. We will be here as long as they are here,” Brother Maitreya, chairman of the Houston Chapter of the Huey P. Newton Gun Club said. “We are going to be here until we run them out of our city.”
Krystal Mohammad, member of the New Black Panther Party, criticized Greene and his group.
“They were ridiculous. They looked weak,” Mohammad said. “They are anti-American. They are going against First Amendment that guarantees people freedom of religion. They are going against basic human rights and are trying to deny someone’s religion and that’s why we were here.”
Javier Olguin said he attended the counter-protest to speak out against the anti-Islamic sentiments.
“If you read the history books you see the Jim Crow era, you see Japanese detainment camps, you see all these atrocities that happen. A lot of people say to themselves, if I were there I would have done the right thing. It’s happening right now and that’s why everybody is out here,” he said. “We’re seeing the oppression of a lot of people. When people are not doing anything and they stay silent, they are complicit in that.”
Syed Ridhwaan, who came from San Antonio to attend the conference, said he didn’t feel intimidated by the anti-Islamic protestors.
“They are vastly outnumbered. So, that feels pretty good,” Ridhwaan said. “There are always going to be people who don’t like Muslims and I’m OK with that,”
Greene attempted to defend the views of Texas Patriot Network, who he said was wrongly being identified as Nazis and racists.
“We don’t hate anybody. We want every Muslim to come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. We want every Muslim that comes to America to become an American and we want them to understand Sharia Law is a really bad idea. It hasn’t worked any place it’s been tried and it won’t work here,” he said. “We welcome anyone that comes here and wants to be an American. And today, we also want people to know we are grateful for our president, Donald Trump, for making America great again.”