The “March and Motorcade in Solidarity” Friday evening went according to plan even though some who were opposed shadowed the group and waited at the planned end of the march fully armed.
The purpose of the event was to commemorate and show solidarity with those who were in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom held on the same day that year, August 28. That massive event filled The Mall in Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his now famous “I have a Dream” speech.
Organizers also intended to show solidarity with those who were in the Friday March on Washington commemoration in Washington, D.C. earlier in the day.
Extra tension was added to the evening as an apparent social media hoax prompted those opposed to the march to believe it was part of a larger effort by “Antifa” to riot in Oklahoma City. A group of about 25 people carrying sidearms and long guns waited at the Capitol building supposedly to “defend” it even though a well-equipped troop of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol is dedicated to protecting the Capitol complex full time.
But, march organizers did not express a plan or desire to vandalize any part of the Capitol, only to go there as a political demonstration.
When it was time for the march, organizers received word of the armed group on the south steps of the Capitol and reminded those in the march not to respond to any provocation.
The marchers who numbered around 200-300 held their rally at the end of the march on the west side of the Capitol building and the heavily-armed opposition kept to the southeast side of the building.
Members of the Highway Patrol were present and watchful but not intrusive.
“Honoring the legacy”
“We are honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. Today marks 57 years since he gave his “I have a dream speech,” said Jabee Williams, one of the organizers. He said that this many years later the concerns that caused that march are still present now.
Williams has revealed at past rallies and in this one that he was first arrested when he was a child but not just once. He said that one of the arrest incidents was from simply wearing a hoodie in a mall.
In a past interview with Free Press, Williams told about being followed all the way across town and then home by the police recently. He believes it’s because of his being black and an activist.
In addition to being a commemoration, the rally was also a call to present-day action. Organizers called on several people to speak in the rally before the march began.
Justin Broiles, a University of Oklahoma defensive back, said that this generation needs to continue to stand up for justice and to “keep fighting the good fight.”
Local NAACP President Garland Pruitt said that “the system is corrupt” and that there needs to be a new effort that goes beyond the efforts of the past. He railed against killings by the police nation-wide and in Oklahoma.
Former Oklahoma Senator Jabar Shumate, a Black Tulsan, reminded marchers that the original March on Washington was by “a people who made things happen, who were committed to making change.”
He encouraged people who were of all races to join in the effort to bring about changes still needed.
“So the folks who are white allies here who come here today, ready to help bring about change. I’m telling you, we are ready to take this to another level. And you can do what you’re doing right here,” Shumate said.
One of the candidates for Oklahoma County Sheriff, Oklahoma City Police Lieutenant Wayland Cubit, spoke about his intent to bring transparency in law enforcement “to a whole other level that they’ve never seen.” He illustrated that by being transparent about himself.
“I am very uncomfortable in this spot right now,” Cubit said referring to the hundreds in the Tower Theater parking lot at the time, some openly anti-police. “But you cannot have comfort and courage at the same time. You gotta pick one. So I’m here to listen. I’m here to see you, to hear you.”
The crowd clapped and some cheered the words of the OKCPD officer, a rarity among protesters in recent months.
For Julius Jones
Francie Ekwerekwu, Oklahoma County assistant public defender, spoke about Oklahoma City native Julius Jones who sits on death row in Oklahoma on a controversial murder conviction. Jones maintains he is innocent of murdering Paul Howell in a carjacking but the State of Oklahoma continues to move forward at the urging of the Oklahoma Attorney General who argues that the conviction was not flawed.
“We all know, Julius Jones is innocent,” Ekwerekwu said. “We know. It’s everywhere. We know it’s true. He’s innocent.”
She said that all of the work to free Jones has been done and there’s nothing else that can be done except to “pray and continue to pray.”
“It’s in the hand of the governor,” said Ekwerekwu.
Democratic Party candidate Mauree Turner, running for Oklahoma House District 88 in the core of the city, defeated incumbent Democratic Party moderate Jason Dunnington in June.
She pointed to what she believes is a need for governmental representatives to be closer to the people they serve.
“I think about why we need to elect more community organizers, people who know our communities, people who love our communities,” Turner said. “Those people have been filling the gaps, time after time, when our legislature and our government has completely let us down.”
“We have people who’ve been pushing this movement for years,” Turner continued. “And, what that means to me, and that solidarity, and the change that isn’t going to come but is happening right now, is something that I that is my grandmother’s wildest dream.”
Whites Against Racism
Whites Against Racism (WAR) was one of the event’s sponsors. Jess Eddy, himself from White culture and a leader in that group, spoke and acknowledged what most who have been to recent actions have seen of him.
“A lot of people think I’m the mad, angry white man,” said Eddy to a wave of knowing laughs across the crowd. Eddy went through a litany of problems with Oklahoma City culture and the problems he had learned about as he grew to know more and more black people who grew up on the east side of OKC.
And once again, he criticized Oklahoma County DA David Prater for what some believe to be excessive prosecution, in some cases bringing “terrorism” charges against protest leaders.
Points he made that have not been made often were Eddy’s criticism of White moderates.
Referring to the portion of the U.S. population that is Black, Eddy said, “Thirteen percent of the American population has been our moral conscience. It has not been the white man or the white woman for 400 years.”
Eddy pointed to 200 years of enslavement in various ways including the current criminal justice system.
“Why?” Eddy continued. “Because the white moderate was incapable of caring because the white moderate was too comfortable. Bank accounts were not quite full enough yet; because their home did not quite have enough stuff in them yet; because they don’t want to put their own health at risk for black and brown people.”
Native American activists and drummers came to the rally singing and drumming on both ends of the march calling for justice and healing on “stolen land.”
Native American activists have intervened physically and spiritually drumming and singing between opposition demonstrators and those protesting. Friday night the drummers did so as one person preached to the marchers around N. Broadway and 23rd.
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