Controversy surrounding execution comes to convention.
Tense moment as protesters clash with delegate
By LISA TEACHEY
Copyright 2000 Houston Chronicle
Tensions in the already intense debate over convicted killer
Gary Graham's scheduled execution escalated Friday as a
dozen armed black activists shoved a delegate outside the
state Republican convention in downtown Houston.
Kaufman County delegate A.J. McClure was pushed to the
ground by one of the rifle-wielding guards surrounding
Quanell X shortly after the Muslim leader began protesting
outside the George R. Brown Convention Center.
McClure, a disabled veteran, quickly rose to his feet and said
he was not hurt, but he was later taken by ambulance to an
area hospital as a precaution.
McClure reported the incident to the Houston Police
Department, but no charges had been filed late Friday and the
guard involved in the incident was not immediately identified.
The confrontation was the only tense moment involving
protesters Friday as state Republicans met to rally around
their candidates and set the party's agenda.
Picketers from the Log Cabin Republicans, other gay rights
organizations, Americans United for Separation of Church and
State and individuals espousing various causes, quietly
walked up and down the sidewalks carrying signs.
Quanell X's group comprising members of the New Black
Panther Party, the National Black United Front and the New
Black Muslim Movement arrived wearing all black, except
for Quanell X. Many carried shotguns, AK-47s and other
It is legal in Texas to carry such firearms openly as long as the
carrier is not a felon and does not aim the weapon at anyone.
After marching to a drum beat from a side street to a grassy
area in front of the exhibition hall, Quanell X demanded
clemency for Graham and support from black leaders within
the Republican Party. Graham was sentenced to death for the
1981 murder of Bobby Lambert outside a Houston supermarket. He is scheduled
to die Thursday.
"We believe we have a divine right, a divine duty and a
divine obligation to stand up for any black man on Death
Row about to be executed ... for a crime he didn't commit,"
Quanell X said.
But when McClure began shouting over Quanell X, the
activist, still surrounded by guards, approached McClure.
That is when one of the guards shoved McClure.
"I was trying to back up and he pushed me down," McClure
said. "I'm a 100 percent disabled veteran and shouldn't be
treated that way."
The activists left soon afterward in a Hummer limousine. A
police spokesman said a videotape of the incident was turned
over to the Harris County district attorney's office for review.
Sara Sadousky, an alternate delegate at the convention, said
she was not worried about her safety as she stood just a few
feet from the armed men. She said not many people were
taking them seriously.
"They couldn't handle the confrontation, which was kind of
funny," Sadousky said. "They come out here and then some
guy confronts them and they tell them 'We got to leave now.' "
Sadousky said the black activists were hypocrites.
"They preached family values and they preached women's
rights, yet they don't have any women on their group," she said.
The commotion with McClure did not seem to affect other
protesters. James Sells stood alone leaning on a barricade
holding a sign that read "Separation of church and state is NOT a partisan
issue." His group was not allowed to buy booth space inside
Jessica Ann Redman preferred to walk up and down the
sidewalk carrying a handwritten placard that said "Ye without
sin throw the first stone."
"The religious right is trying to eliminate people with
alternate values," Redman said. "What they have
become is a party with no color, no diversity."
Chronicle reporters S.K. Bardwell and J.R. Gonzales contributed to this story.
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