Oklahoma County DA David Prater is now receiving open and persistent criticism by Black Lives Matter OKC – Oklahoma City and allies after some of its teen members were charged with inciting to riot.
The Black activist group held a rally Thursday to call attention to who they term “political prisoners,” some still in their teen years, who were in the Oklahoma County Jail after having turned themselves in Wednesday.
The rally mostly focused on Prater’s decisions to charge five people with inciting to riot from an incident involving a permitted street painting activity by the group.
A confrontation between a police officer and the group painting the street led to a loud incident in the doorway of the police headquarters where the activists were trying to file a complaint but were blocked from entering. Several members of that group turned themselves in earlier in the week.
Prater has also brought terrorism charges against three others who committed acts of vandalism breaking windows and setting fire to a Sheriff’s van mostly on the first night of the protests, May 30. He has charged six others with rioting from incidents on the first and second nights, May 30 and 31.
The rally Thursday took place in Kerr Park in downtown Oklahoma City early in the morning with a broad spectrum of BLM activists and other activist groups converged.
“We all in Oklahoma City know what terrorism is, and it ain’t kids running down there and expressing their outrage,” said Jess Eddy, an activist with Black Lives Matter.
He said they were working to raise enough money to post bond for the young people who at that time were still in jail.
“But in the meantime,” said Eddy, “especially as white allies, to use our voices and our privilege to let David Prater know, and these judges who approve high bonds, Judge Ray Elliott, know that that we don’t stand for that shit.”
Rodney Cox, one of the organizers of several Black Lives Matter actions, spoke and acknowledged the diversity of the crowd that was gathered. Cox is black.
“It is hard for us to be able to express ourselves and to speak up,” he said.
“I often tell people that I am not tired of being black, but I’m tired of the way that I’m treated because I am black,” said Cox.
“For my white allies that are here,” Cox continued. “Your job is to be able to go and tell DA Prater, to be able to tell your family members why we’re doing exactly what we’re doing.”
“I don’t understand”
Sheri Dickerson, executive director of Black Lives Matter OKC – Oklahoma City spoke about what she believed to be the injustice of having people in their teens and early 20s locked up for protesting.
“I don’t understand why they’re scared. I don’t understand why they need to create political prisoners out of 18 and 19 and young 20 year olds who are essentially standing and holding the front lines,” said Dickerson.
“Maybe they are concerned because they know what I know that our young people like Amaya and Jasmine and Joshua are the ones that are actually going to bring forth the change.”
“I am so privileged and very humbled to be among these amazing young people who are courageous and tenacious in all of their might.”
Dickerson said that she has a black son and a black daughter she is concerned about, too.
She surprised the crowd there by saying that she voted for Prater and that “I don’t regret that yet.”
She acknowledged past times when she believed that Prater had made the right decisions like the prosecution and conviction in 2015 of former OKCPD officer Daniel Holtzclaw for multiple rapes and sexual assaults while on duty.
“But, every once in a while, just maybe we get our visions skewed,” said Dickerson about Prater. “And so we cannot allow ego or self for a campaign or worrying about votes, … to make decisions or be persuaded by those who literally hold all the dollars.”
Dickerson concluded by saying that the if the DA comes after anyone they should come after her and not the young people who were in jail.
“So please stop trying to persecute, to prosecute, and to intimidate people who are literally saying, acknowledge that we exist, acknowledge that our lives matter, acknowledge that our family’s lives matter, and acknowledge that justice is supposed to be for all, even though we know the Constitution of which they stand upon, has nothing to do with, and was never written for, those of us in black and brown skin.”
Jabee Williams spoke about an incident he had recently where two OKCPD officers followed him from N.W. 23rd Street all the way to near N.E. 23rd and MLK – miles away – until he pulled into the driveway of his house.
“There’s no reason why I should be terrorized like that. There’s no reason why I should be followed to my house. No reason,” said Williams.
“We know in Oklahoma City what terrorism is, and what those kids were doing is not terrorism.”
Later that day the young people who had turned themselves in on July 1 started getting bonded out by money raised from efforts of Black Lives Matter and other concerned individuals.
City Councilwoman Hamon
After the rally, Ward 6 City Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon* talked to Free Press about the fears that might have led to the terrorism charges brought by Prater.
We asked what she had been hearing after the demonstrations where large crowds walked by the homes of people in her ward.
She said that she had talked to constituents who had been fearful and then others who stood out on their lawn to cheer on the peaceful protesters the first night.
“I can’t argue with their fear but you know, we look at the amount of people that were out. And then, what did happen, the property damage that did happen was was pretty scattershot,” said Hamon.
“I get the fear and I get the worry,” she continued. “But I’ve also heard from people whose businesses were actually damaged.”
Hamon said what she has heard from most of those who had windows knocked out is that they understood the frustration from the recent deaths of black people at the hands of police in other cities.
She said that the owners she talked to knew that breaking a window was “a temporary thing and not a permanent thing. It’s not a forever thing.”
*Hamon is the wife of Free Press columnist Marty Peercy.