Twenty-six hours before the Super Bowl was set to kickoff across town, nobody who’d gathered outside City Hall was decked out in a football jersey. Instead, they carried protest signs in all shapes and sizes, signifying both their support for inclusiveness and their disgust with the country’s new Commander in Chief. A typical missive: “Even Joffrey Would Be Better.”
Saturday’s march—organized by a loose confederation of progressive organizations, coordinating using the hashtag #ResistHouston—drew several hundred Houstonians, a wide cross-section that included Manifesto-toting Communists and first-time protesters alike. The mood was easy-going, playful even, given their collective frustration. “Every day, it’s something new,” says Michelle Feltz, a research assistant who also participated in last month’s women’s rally. “But this is a good way to spend an afternoon, to show our support.”
A call-and-response of “Fight the Power” kicked things off. Then, from City Hall, the crowd bent onto McKinney and paraded down the sidewalk, en route to Minute Maid Park and eventually Discovery Green, home of the city’s massive Super Bowl Live festival. On Friday afternoon, another 200 had met near the Galleria to protest the Trump administration’s executive orders on immigration and refugees. Others are expected to assemble on Super Bowl Sunday itself, inside Hermann Park. It’s a noteworthy trend in a city without a strong reputation for public activism.
The oddness of the historical moment was not lost on Lori Phillips, a soft-spoken 40-something in a fleece jacket. One on hand, Houstonians are proud to celebrate their city's growth and diversity on a global stage. On the other, residents are adjusting to life under an unpopular (and unpredictable) president. “I think it’s important that Houston shows [Trump’s actions] are not acceptable, on a whole host of issues,” she says.
The hefty police presence on hand suggested that HPD, during the most anticipated weekend of the year, was taking no chances. Calmly, officers explained to organizers exactly where they were permitted to stand once they got deeper into the NFL’s footprint. “What’s the word today?” one asked rhetorically. “Constructive dialogue.”
Now, if someone could relay that message to the West Wing …