Wednesday, July 10, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 154


 
 









 

Cross gives rise to conflict

By Luis Zepeda
The Daily Cougar

After being pulled over by a Houston Police Department patrol car on his way to work in the early hours of a November night, Byron
Gillum was shot dead five minutes later on University grounds.


Hope Eugene/The Daily Cougar


A cross on Scott Street in front of Robertson Stadium commemorates the death of Byron Gillum. Gillum was shot and killed by
Houston Police 12 years ago.

More than 12 years after Gillum's shooting, the way his death is remembered is still open for debate.

A cross standing in the same spot where Gillum was shot may spur controversy between the separation of church and state since
the cross is located on UH grounds, a public institution funded by state funds.

Standing five feet above the ground, the cross is located on the 3700 block of Scott Street on UH's Lot 12A, and was erected in the
same spot where Gillum was shot dead. It has been there since 1990.

Dean of Students William Munson said that any kind of expression like this on campus requires prior authorization for his office.

"We'll have to take a look at this to see if the cross is on university property. If it is on university property it hasn't been approved by
anybody in this office," Munson said.

"Some of the streets are city property; Cullen Boulevard is a city street, as well as Scott Street," he said.

Any display of postings, banners and handbills on university grounds are regulated in terms of time and place by UH. A prior
authorization is required before any placement of symbols on university property.

Gillum's shooting occurred on a time where a succession of police incidents caused a public sentiment against HPD and heated
discussions about police brutality.

Also in 1989, an off-duty officer shot Ida Lee Shaw Delaney to death on a Houston freeway after a traffic altercation. Both Gillum and
Delaney were black. In the Gillum case, the HPD officer was white. In the Delaney incident, the officer was Hispanic.

HPD officer Scott Tschirhart stopped Gillum on a routine traffic violation. After a brief discussion, Tschirhart fired eight shots with his
service revolver, striking Gillum four times in the back and once in the arm and abdomen. Tschirhart was fired from HPD shortly after
the incident, but he was cleared by a grand jury.

City of Houston's District D Council Member Ada Edwards was a representative of the Delaney-Gillum Justice Committee in 1990 that
demanded justice after the incidents. She says that the cross on UH property is not of religious nature.

"The cross does not serve religious purposes, it symbolizes the community's continued fight for justice," Edwards said. "We have
people in the community who are Muslims, Christians and Jewish, among other religions. The cross is a symbol of justice, and it
won't be taken down without a fight."

The debate about the separation of church and state has recently appeared in headlines after an Appeals Court ruled that the Pledge
of Allegiance is a state endorsement of religion, which violates the Constitution and the separation of church and state. 

Consistently garnished with fresh flowers day after day, the rusty white metal cross bears no name on it. Whether it will continue at its
current location on UH property is uncertain.
 
 
 

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