Houston, Texas – Activists and football fans transformed Houston leading up to the Super Bowl. After the city and Harris County doled out undisclosed millions to get ready for hundreds of thousands of sports tourists, activists also prepared. They held planning meetings, banner-making parties, anti-Trump interviews with media and demonstrations at the nine-day “Super Bowl Live” festival.
Houston is truly a city of immigrants. One out of five people here were not born in the U.S. Harris County welcomes about 30 of every 1,000 refugees resettled by the United Nations anywhere in the world — more than any other U.S. city and more than most nations. If Houston were a country, it would rank fourth in the world for refugee resettlement, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Trump’s anti-immigrant rants and orders are not popular here. On Jan. 29 and 30, thousands rejected his anti-Muslim travel ban at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport. At one point, crowds became so large that police closed the terminal. Demonstrators arriving late gathered outside for another protest.
On Feb. 3, the Muslim community rallied at a main business intersection. Hundreds carried signs welcoming Muslims to the city. Speakers included a leader of FIEL (Familias Inmigrante y Estudiantes en Lucha), who expressed solidarity with Muslims. FIEL representatives, with 600 other activists, mainly undocumented youth and DREAMers, had testified for over 12 hours the day before at a Texas Senate Committee hearing on SB6, a bill that would allow the state to withhold funds from sanctuary cities and campuses.
On Feb. 4, crowds gathered at Houston City Hall for a militant protest that included many young activists energized to oppose Trump’s bigoted politics. The crowd marched to the Super Bowl Live Festival to demonstrate there.
On Super Bowl Day, Feb. 5, there were three protests. Over a thousand people rallied and then marched three miles to NRG Energy Stadium, site of the Super Bowl. This demonstration, sponsored by the Democratic Party, included a wide array of civil rights, social democratic, revolutionary and Black Lives Matter organizations.
At the stadium, this march joined two other groups, Houston Stands With Standing Rock and the Water Protectors, that had come from rallying at another location. This convergence nearly doubled the size of the demonstration outside the Super Bowl.
Every demonstration this week got lots of honking and wild cheers from passersby, showing that Trump’s racist, Islamophobic, anti-LGBTQ, misogynist actions are not welcome in Houston. Now, plans are circulating for a pre-President’s Day, Feb. 17, general work stoppage in Houston.