The second Anti-Trump protest rally in a week seemed to gain more traction for religious and social justice groups opposed to the harsh rhetoric of president-elect Donald Trump and his followers.
The “Rally Against Hate” Sunday, Nov. 20, drew a bigger crowd than the Saturday before but, this time, also drew counter-protesters. Rally speeches once again focused on resisting what protesters see as the promotion of hate speech by president-elect Donald Trump and his followers.
Most of the counter-protesters rode there on motorcycles and were dressed in traditional biker leathers. Some of the approximately 30 counter-protesters held Trump campaign flags and some held Confederate battle flags.
Some counter protesters said they were there because they had heard the American flag would be burned. But organizers denied anything like that had ever been planned.
“We respect their right to assemble,” said T. Sheri Dickerson, one of the rally organizers and Executive Director of Black Live Matter, Oklahoma. “We’re just going to keep focusing on love and peace.”
At the start of the rally it looked like the counter-protesters were just there to disrupt the rally. The loud noise of their revving motorcycles parked just across the street caused some problems at first Dickerson said.
But eventually the counter-protesters became content to stand in an agree-upon line in the street along the edge of the Capital plaza as those in agreement with the rally gathered near the south steps. A protective line of protesters took up a position in a line facing the the line of counter-protesters about 30 feet away.
Capital Patrol and Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers made a heavy show of force at the rally staying in frequent conversation with both protesters and counter-protesters during the two-hour event. No apparent conflicts occurred between the two groups.
Some newly-elected representatives were present and spoke at the rally.
South side representative Forrest Bennett encouraged the crowd to stay in contact with their representatives and “remember that this Capital building is the people’s house – your house.”
“I’m here because the constituents in my district expect me to be here,” Bennett said to loud cheers and applause. “That’s what it takes.”
Another representative from the south side, Mickey Dollens, encouraged participants to stay engaged and make their positions known to their representatives.
After he spoke, Dollens spent about 15 minutes in conversation with a circle of counter protesters, their confederate flags waving in the wind as they talked. Later in the day
Dollens told Free Press that he intentionally went over to the some of the counter-protesters to “make sure that they knew their voices were being heard.”
“They said they wanted a Confederate marker that would honor the Confederate dead and a place to fly the Confederate flag,” said Dollens who will represent a conservative south Oklahoma District in the upcoming session.
“I told him that we will just have to disagree on that one,” he said. But then Dollens changed the subject and asked them about public education. He said they were concerned about the low pay of teachers and thought that public education should be a priority, which is what Dollens pointed to in his campaign as a top issue.
“It shows that no matter how extreme our differences seem, we can still find common ground,” Dollens said.
Imam Imad Enchassi, clergy for the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, spoke passionately.
“They ask us to register. We say yes. We will register to vote,” Enchassi told the cheering crowd.
“They want to monitor our mosques. We say please do. You will see how we feed the poor, clothe the naked and take care of the hungry,” he said. “They ask us to wear a special name tag. I will. I’m an unapologetic Muslim-American that’s here to stay.”
Chloe Brown, 15 and a student in Norman Public Schools, attended the rally with her mother holding a sign that said “I will not be silent.” She said she was not going to be silent about “racism and sexism.”
The Norman teen said that she and some of her friends had witnessed some verbal incidents on their school bus after the election that concerned them. “There were people using slurs, saying since it’s Donald Trump’s America now they should be able to use those slurs,” Brown said. She said that she is of African-American descent.
One of the counter-protesters who identified himself as “Brad” was peacefully talking with small groups of protesters during the rally. He visited with Free Press at the end of the day.
When asked why he visited at length with several protesters, he said, “I think that’s a big important thing that we come together and we talk, and we communicate.”
“A lot of things that they’re sayin’, we agree with, too,” Brad said. “But, Trump is our president and we need to get behind him. I’m not going to come out here and let someone burn the American flag.” When pressed on the flag burning statement, Brad said that the counter-protesters had been told that the American flag would be burned at the rally. But he couldn’t identify the source of the misinformation.
He said that their concern about the rumored flag-burning was their main reason for being at the rally, but did support some of the same things the protesters were promoting.
“These people, a lot of their signs say, you know, ‘love,’ ‘no hate’ – we’re with that. We’re definitely with that,” Brad said.
“We don’t want to see anyone hurt or have their rights taken away.” When pressed about whether the counter-protesters were there to cause any violence he responded, “Absolutely not. We’re fairly peaceful people, just like anyone else.”
Organizer Dickerson said that the rally was not just a repeat of the smaller one the previous Saturday.
“This one was a big collaboration of a lot of the social justice groups, religious sects as well as even some of those that are just community organizations,” she told Free Press. “It’s a broader spectrum.”
She said the main goals were “healing” and promoting “collaborations between people.”
The rallies were a way to start “doing the work to get ready for the next elections to make some more changes,” Dickerson said.
(Click on this gallery to see larger versions of the photos.)
Note: T. Sheri Dickerson is not related to Brett Dickerson, the author of this report.