A rally and march from Bricktown to a now-familiar spot in front of the Oklahoma City Police Headquarters Friday afternoon revealed a rapid maturing of protests that started two weeks ago in Oklahoma City.
Around 200 protesters of the unjustified police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others involved passionate speeches but also some on-the-ground organizing and promoting of policies.
The protest was organized by the Collegiate Freedom and Justice Coalition and not Black Lives Matter as some TV stations had been incorrectly announcing.
Black Lives Matter will hold their March for Justice at 10 a.m. Saturday starting at City Hall.
Organizing for change
The leaders of the event were Adriana Laws and Aleah Walker. They talked to Free Press about their goals for the event as others were still speaking.
“We got a lot of things going on,” Laws told us. “We got voter registration going on. We have a three-page letter that’ll go to every member in the statehouse and detailing policy reforms that we would like to see as a community and so we’ve got that going around getting signatures out here as well.”
And there really were even more things going on at that protest-turned-rally than what Laws and Walker mentioned.
Virgil Green, candidate for Oklahoma County Sheriff in the upcoming election, was actively visiting with and listening to the protesters.
The Black 25-year veteran of law enforcement was recently the Chief of Police for Spencer in east Oklahoma County.
He said that there is definitely a need for change in policing in general.
“I definitely have said out in public that there’s definitely a culture problem within law enforcement, and we need to change that culture,” Green said.
A Christian group of about 20 with uniform modest dress similar to Mennonites and others in the historic peace churches were there in support. Their pastor, Markus Tovstiga, and one other from that group spoke in support of the protests.
Pastor Tovstiga told Free Press when they first arrived at the protest that their church is called The Church of God but is not associated with the Church of God denomination.
“We have plain modest dress, but we’re very radical in our beliefs and love the Lord,” he said. “And we believe that, you know, our Christianity has to affect us daily.”
“That’s really why we’re here,” Tovstiga added. “Because the gospel is against oppression. And as Christians, we must stand up for the oppressed.”
He described the current system as “beyond repair.”
The group’s reaching out to the protesters in support and the open inclusion of them in return represented a far broader spectrum of people in the movement than the “Antifa” tropes circulating through some parts of the broadcast media and social media.
The differences in dynamics on the exact same spot between the first night of Black Lives Matter protests and Friday afternoon were dramatic.
The protests on May 30th, the first night, seemed to be an upheaval of rage at the police and society in general not long after the horrific eight minutes and 46 seconds it took for a Minneapolis police officer to kill George Floyd by putting his knee on Floyd’s neck.
A large angry crowd confronted the police line in front of the headquarters after occupying the intersection of N.W 23rd and Classen Boulevard resulting in over ten arrests which fired up the crowd even more.
Later in that first evening the crowd of around 1,000 moved down Classen and to a spot on Shartel between the OKCPS Headquarters and the Oklahoma County Jail.
As about 50-100 protesters continued to confront the police line the department made the decision to use tear gas and bean-bag rounds fired from shotguns repeatedly during the evening.
Several police vehicles were set on fire and others were heavily damaged.
But, Friday’s demonstration seemed to represent the next phase of protest and organizing by the coalition while still pressing the point of the injustices of police treatment of minority communities in the U.S.