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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — Leaders of protests in Oklahoma County meetings say localizing an already existing Oklahoma law to prohibit protests won’t change their approach.

“This stops nothing,” Adrianna Laws told Free Press about Oklahoma Senate Bill 403 now on the Governor’s desk. Laws was a highly visible leader in Oklahoma County meeting protests in 2020.

“If government bodies act with competence and good faith, we have no reason to disrupt them. As simple as that,” said Laws.

This comes after Oklahoma County meetings were disrupted by loud protesters in 2020 over several festering issues with the Oklahoma County Detention Center (Jail).

“Only been arrested three”

“Clara Luper was arrested 26 times making history and inciting change,” said Laws. “Ive only been arrested three …. We got a whole lot of arrests to go before I’m even close to her record, let alone breaking it.”

Luper was a Black Oklahoma City public school teacher and a prominent civil rights leader in the 1960s who successfully led efforts to break down racial segregation laws and practices in Oklahoma City.

While lionized now as a hero, at the time, Luper was harshly criticized by public officials, and portrayed by local newspapers and broadcast outlets as a trouble-maker.

Jess Eddy, also a highly visible protest leader in 2020, was defiant as ever when we asked him about the bill.

“Attempts to criminalize our advocacy for the vulnerable will not discourage us from engaging despotic governance,” said Eddy. “We are at perfect peace with suffering the throes of State oppression on our path toward collective liberation.”

The bill

SB403 would extend prohibitions already in place against disruptions of state government to local subdivisions like counties and cities.

The bill was authored by OKC metro legislators Rep. Robert Manger, R-Oklahoma City, in the House and Sen. Brenda Stanley, R-Midwest City, in the Senate

It sailed through both houses of the Oklahoma Legislature where Republicans have super-majorities.

“We have rules of decorum that govern how business is handled in the Capitol, and I believe that same decorum should apply to other political subdivisions,” Manger said in a news release. “There are plenty of avenues for voices to be expressed on the issues without having to disruptively protest during a meeting.”

If Governor Kevin Stitt signs it, the existing punishment for such actions would extend to local subdivisions as well. The current law prohibiting disruptions and interference in state government has a maximum of one year in county jail and a $1,000 fine.

“Because these boards, commissions and other entities are acting on behalf of the citizens they serve, the people have a right to access those meetings,” Stanley said in the same news release. “This legislation is aimed at ensuring those meetings can be conducted in a civil, orderly way.”

Reaction to protests

In 2019 Tulsa County Commissioners saw disruptive protests over an MOU signed with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement administration (ICE).

In 2020, Oklahoma County Commissioners and the newly-formed Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority or Jail Trust also had loud, disruptive protests over ICE policies, CARES Act money expenditures, and conditions in the Oklahoma County Jail.

The spectacle of persons physically occupying the front of the room and stopping proceedings in Oklahoma County was new and disturbing to some who watched the livestream.

To learn more: Jail Trust faces loud protest over $36M Cares Act money

At one point Oklahoma County officials considered a resolution to prohibit protests.

To learn more: Resolution against protests yields more protests at county courthouse

The bill clearly targets urban counties in Oklahoma since such protests have not been so much of an issue statewide.

It is not yet known to what extent the law’s extension could or would be applied to the types of protests carried out in the streets of Oklahoma City during the summer of 2020.

Last Updated April 18, 2021, 11:46 AM by Brett Dickerson – Editor