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By releasing a carefully edited official video depicting the May 30-31, 2020 protests against police violence at NW 23rd Street and Classen Boulevard and in front of their headquarters, Oklahoma City Police Department is attempting to write its own version of history. 

It is trying to “Portlandize” the Oklahoma City protest, and it begs the question: why is OKCPD trying to shape the perception of events of that day?

Opinion by George D. Lang

Organized on social media without the involvement of Black Lives Matter or its Oklahoma City director, T. Sheri Dickerson, the protests were in response to the murders of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, both at the hands of local police. 

According to eyewitnesses — including Dickerson, who showed up to observe after learning of the protest — police on the scene were escalating tensions, perhaps proving the protesters’ point. 

OKCPD has not released individual raw footage from either body cams or pole-mounted cameras from those two days. Instead, we are given 28 minutes of footage edited to show only what OKCPD wants everyone to see.

There is reason to believe that OKCPD knew it was playing dirty pool with the release of this video. This was what journalists call a “Friday dead drop.” 

The video was released at 2:30 p.m. Friday, February 26. This is long after most news organizations have held their daily budget meetings. By 2:30 p.m., reporters are either out in the field or filing their stories for the day. It is the perfect time for any organization to release bad news without it making much of a media impact, and it happens at every level of government and business. 

No responsible journalist would use a video with such specific edits as source material, other than to report on OKCPD trying to shape public opinion rather than purely inform the press and the citizenry through the release of unedited, unexpurgated footage. No court would accept this as evidence; justice requires a raw feed. 

The video reminded me of a phenomenon from the early days of YouTube in which amateur editors created a trailer for Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining that made it look like a James L. Brooks-directed romantic comedy and presented Home Alone as a horror film. These fake trailers were often brilliant, but they also made an important point: with the right kind of editing, you can bend video to your will. 

Beyond the shadow of the Avid workstation, there is also the question of why this video was released nine months after the event. And why now? 

This video is surfacing at a time when conservative politicians are drawing false equivalencies between the January 6 attack on the Capitol Building and anti-fascist protests against the Portland Police Department in Portland, Oregon. 

Despite provocation and escalation from law enforcement, this video was edited to look like a sustained attack against police without cause or provocation. 

The video does show some instances in which protesters vandalized private property. These cases were self-defeating crimes. However, they do not justify the kind of militarized action taken by police against protesters, who would do well to stay on message and avoid actions that dilute the effectiveness of peaceful protest.

But what OKCPD has created borders on propaganda — or more specifically, agitprop. Furthermore, it was created on the public dime, and if the public information office spent nine months creating it, that would amount to a lot of public dimes. 

That seems to be the case. 

“This presentation has taken months to prepare as supervisors have had to view countless hours of body-worn camera video and complete use-of-force investigations regarding the protests and unrest,” said a press release issued with the video. “Just this month, the presentation was presented to the Citizens Advisory Board for review.” 

Or, they could have released the raw footage, which would be far more constructive and much less defensive than what OKCPD has created. Editing makes events easy to consume, but it can also work as a force against clarity. 

Release the raw videos, OKCPD. What could go wrong?

Last Updated March 7, 2021, 8:52 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor