The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety issued a vague news release about “outside protest groups” around 4:30 p.m. CST Wednesday after their staff had already gone home for the day.
In part, it said the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety “has identified a growing number of outside protest groups, not involved with the ongoing teachers’ rally, present at the State Capitol.”
“The situation is being closely monitored for the safety of educators, elected officials and others at the Capitol and the surrounding area,” the statement said.
The release, only 110 words, did not specify which groups had been identified or how DPS made such a determination.
Another part of the news release was more ominous, but no less vague.
“There have been reports of threats made towards members of the Legislature and the Governor’s office.”
There was no information on the news release as to who to contact for further information.
Attempts to reach OKDPS spokesperson Captain Paul Timmons around 7 p.m. were unsuccessful.
See the end of this report for a PDF of the release on the DPS website as it appeared at 10:30 p.m. CST Wednesday.
Free Press showed the release to ACLU Executive Director Ryan Keisel at the Capitol late in the day. After reading it, he was eager to go on the record.
This is his entire spoken statement:
The ACLU of Oklahoma has had legal observers at the Capitol since day one of the education protests.
Our observers have been inside and outside of this building on a regular basis. What we have seen has been nothing short of democracy in action: local teachers from around the state of Oklahoma exercising their First Amendment rights in an organized and peaceful manner.
We have not seen anything that in any way substantiates claims that there are outside groups instigating unlawful activity at the state Capitol.
I am very concerned about vague statements that are unsubstantiated by specific claims and what that may mean for future action by DPS and for the peaceful organized protests that have been happening at the Capitol and hopefully will be happening for a long time or as long as it takes.
This comes at the end of the third day of education funding protests that continue to fill the Capitol and seemed to distress some who are in the Republican super-majority in both houses of the Legislature.
Earlier in the week, at least one Republican Legislator insisted there were “outside agitators” among the ranks of teachers, parents and students at the Capitol.
Republican Governor Mary Fallin also suggested Tuesday that “Antifa” was behind some of the unrest at Oklahoma’s Capitol in Oklahoma City.
Talked w/Ok Gov Mary Fallin about #oklahomateachersstrike. She mentioned “outside” groups w/teachers at Capitol. I said yes…NEA and WV teacher union leaders.
“And ANTIFA”, she added.
Did y’all see ANTIFA at the Statehouse?
— Omar Villafranca (@OmarVillafranca) April 4, 2018