OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — Over 7,000 signatures were collected for an initiative petition by the people calling for a grand jury investigation of DA David Prater. Only 5,000 valid signatures are needed to move to the next stage of the process.
By Oklahoma statute, the Oklahoma County Election Board must receive the signed petitions from the Court Clerk the next day, Tuesday. The Board will have seven days to validate the signatures. If there are enough valid signatures, Judge Richard C. Ogden will have 30 days to convene the grand jury.
Normally, the DA calls for the convening of a grand jury. But, in this case, the DA is the subject of the request for a grand jury by an initiative petition of the people.
Prater has said that he will not run again which has caused some to wonder why all the trouble.
But, those who have been spearheading the effort say that the grand jury investigation they seek is to send a message to anyone who would be DA that the approach of Prater is not right and will be challenged.
“Tired of being bullied”
While those who were submitting the petition were waiting to turn in the ten boxes that held the paperwork, Free Press talked to Jabee Williams, one of several who had organized the initiative petition drive. We asked how this action is significant.
“It shows that the community is tired of being bullied and intimidated and sick of people who are power-hungry and don’t treat the community right,” said Williams. “This just shows that you know, when the community comes together we can do anything.”
“And hopefully it sets a precedent for the next DA and an example for the communities or the communities to know that they can hold people accountable for their actions,” Williams continued.
“It’s huge,” said Nick Singer who was helping turn in the 7,000+ petition signatures. “I mean, it’s organized people demonstrating their power, showing that citizens can get together and make things happen. So yeah, very, very significant.”
The sister of Julius Jones, Antoinette Jones, was present and helped turn in the petition. Jones was recently given clemency by Governor Kevin Stitt just hours before Jones scheduled execution. He was prosecuted by the Oklahoma County DA at the time, Bob Macy. Current DA David Prater has tried to uphold the death sentence for Julius Jones and has seemed in the OKC community to be overly eager to do anything he could to make sure Jones would be executed.
“We are deeply disappointed in how DA Prater has continuously tried to help kill Julius and made life unbearable for him in his bias. And him speaking about his bias is truly concerning to our community,” said Antoinette Jones in a prepared statement from the family.
She continued, “I’m appreciative to our community that they have stepped up with their signatures. We’re continuing to fight for Julius’s freedom. Again, I thank God every day for Julius’ life and that we could continue to fight for his freedom.”
When the petition drive was first announced, some members of the press asked if it was possible to gather that many signatures in the 45 days the group had.
We asked Duron Wise what this may show to those who didn’t think it could be done.
“For me, it just shows that we were effective in our messaging as a collective to County voters and that David Prater has abused his power as district attorney really ever since he got in office,” said Wise.
He said that even though Prater has filed charges against five officers who were involved in the police shooting death of Stavian Rodriguez as well as some other instances, the public is still aware and angry about the high levels of police shootings in the community throughout history and into the present.
Wise said that’s why there was so much energy expended on this petition.
As well, Prater’s charging of some of the protesters with “terrorism” for their actions during the George Floyd protests of May 30, 2020, amped-up simmering resentment from years of what some believe to be excessive policing and prosecution of people of color in Oklahoma County.
Jess Eddy, who was one of the original organizers, told Free Press later by a message that “there’s no doubt collecting signatures is hard, time-consuming work. And there was the fear factor to overcome. Many were, understandably, worried about helping or even signing for fear targeting and retaliation by Prater.”
But, Eddy said that there were “two factors” that led to the group getting an excess of over 2,000 more signatures than they needed:
- “broad familiarity among the public with Prater’s conduct against Black people,”
- “a really committed group of people that drove the signature gathering.”
Eddy described the volunteers as being “relentless.”
“It was beautiful and inspiring to see,” said Eddy.
UPDATES have been made since this post was first published to correct punctuation errors and to give more context for the desire for a grand jury.
Last Updated December 8, 2021, 8:36 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor