A new resolution on the Oklahoma County County Commissioners’ agenda for Wednesday would contain and limit the manner and location of protests on any county property. The resolution was requested by Court Clerk Rick Warren.
And, County Commissioner Carrie Blumert has already said on social media that she will vote against the resolution. That leaves the passage of the resolution up to the vote of Commissioners Brian Maughan and Kevin Calvey.
This comes the day after the second “Moral Monday” protest that occurred on the east side of the Oklahoma County Courthouse.
It also comes after Commissioners Kevin Calvey and Brian Maughan struggled in their last meeting with the idea of allowing public comment during their virtual meetings and tabled the idea until a later date. Commissioner Carrie Blumert was for allow virtual public comment and County Clerk David B. Hooten suggested ways they could keep the interchange secure while allowing comments.
Protesters have persisted in railing against Oklahoma County DA David Prater’s decisions to level what protesters consider to be excessive charges against protesters from the weekend of May 30/31. They are also protesting against Prater’s decisions to not prosecute law enforcement officers in police shooting over the last several years.
Some of the protests have spent around 15 to 30 minutes in the streets marching around the courthouse complex downtown an then ending up in the courtyard on the east side of the courthouse.
Protests are already planned outside the Oklahoma County Annex at 320 Robert S Kerr Avenue in downtown Oklahoma City starting at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday.
A new Facebook event was posted Tuesday once awareness of the agenda item began to grow. The protest is called “STOP CORRUPT COMMISSIONERS” and is organized by the Collegiate Freedom and Justice Coalition, WAR — Whites Against Racism, and the Red State Revolt podcast.
In the “whereas” sections of the resolution (embedded below) the right of free speech is affirmed but also a concern about the function of the courts and county government is expressed.
The resolution calls for designating a very small strip of the area underneath the overhang of the north side of the Annex on Robert S. Kerr as a protest zone but not any other place around the north side. Many of the recent peaceful but loud protests have occurred in the street and has blocked traffic which was the point of the protesters wanting their concerns to be heard.
Areas on the east side, south side, and west side of the original courthouse would be designated as “public forums for free speech activities.” The argument of the resolution is that those areas have historically been areas of public dissent and free speech and so it should be allowed there.
The resolution also designates basically the parking lots of the Oklahoma County Jail and the Oklahoma County Juvenile Center as “public forums for free speech activities.” All other areas of county property would be restricted from public protests.
Prohibited types of speech
The resolution, if passed would apply the following restrictions to free speech around the county properties.
The resolution states that “Free speech activities may not:”
- Be conducted in an unlawful manner.
- Be conducted within 25 feet of any building entrance or exit during times when the building is open and operating public business.
- Interfere with the flow of pedestrian or vehicular traffic.
- Create an imminent safety, security or health hazard.
- Use any amplified sound (i.e. bullhorn, portable amplifier, portable speaker, drumming, etc.) during times when the Courthouse and Courthouse Annex is open and operating public business.
- Create excessive noise that disrupts the functioning of the Court, as determined by any judge of the District Court, during times when the Courthouse and Courthouse Annex is open and operating public business.
- Be conducted in a manner that damages public property.
Recently, protesters have used bullhorns and portable speaker systems for speakers to be heard in front of the crowd at protests.
The most exteme measure in the resolution is the power it gives to even one appointed special district judge and or elected district judge to simply decide on their own that a protest outside the building in public space is disruptive during regular business hours and order sheriff’s deputies to clear protesters even in the “public forum” zones.
The explanation for the protest given on the Facebook event page gives the coalition’s rationale for the protest:
In what seems to be a direct response to Moral Monday, the county commissioners have decided to vote on silencing us, taxpayers. They are voting to restrict our constitutional rights to freedom of speech and assembly by directly attacking our rights to gather in public forum spaces such as our county courthouse, jail, etc. WE WILL NOT STAND FOR THIS. Join us as we go to voice our opinions on the matter and stand up to the very corruption and oppression we have been battling consistently for the last three months.
Agenda and ResolutionAgenda
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