As young activists gathered in front of the Oklahoma City Police Department Headquarters Friday night the environment was radically different than the chaotic, tear-gas clouded scene there just two months ago.
Friday night’s “Defeating Disparity Rally” had two locations in common with the one May 30: N.W. 23rd and Classen and the Police HQ. It also had the same concerns about police violence and the value of life in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
The May 30 protest was fueled by a particular passion and outrage – for some, straight-up rage – about the spate of recent horrific police killings of Black people and the long dark history of police violence.
But beyond that night, the concern seems to be growing deeper for the activists in their teens, 20s, and 30s, to develop a steady pace and pressure around the issue that could have a lasting effect in Oklahoma City.
It would be a fair conclusion that both the police and protesters have evolved in their responses to each other.
No tear gas or bean-bag rounds were fired by riot-geared officers as on May 30.
And, we observed no graffiti or damage done to the headquarters or any other building along the way that night by the protesters as we walked along side the group the entire round trip.
There were passionate speeches but no officers were visible outside. Only one officer sat behind the public desk on the other side of the lobby from the locked front doors of the Headquarters.
“There are people in the crowd who’ve been labeled as terrorists, people who’ve been in jail for fighting for what’s right and we got to keep fighting for them,” said Adriana Laws president of the Collegiate Freedom and Justice Coalition.
Her vice-president, Duron Wise reminded the crowd that their effort needs to be long-term. “It doesn’t really matter who is in office. This fight continues. So whether Joe Biden takes office or whether Donald Trump gets another four years, we still have to be out here.”
Mauree Turner just successfully primaried a Democratic Party incumbent for the party nomination for HD 88, a district in the core of the City. She spoke about the large negative power the “prison industrial system” has on people of color.
“We weaponize our prisons across Oklahoma as a holding facility for folks who are impoverished, folks who weren’t given an opportunity and equitable beginning,” said Turner. “And, that is what we’re out here fighting for. Our liberation is tied to one another.”
Protesters read and posted a hand-written set of demands on the front doors of the headquarters before they left on foot for their cars parked back up at 23rd and Classen.
The list of demands were directed toward Oklahoma County, City of Oklahoma City, and OCPD.
First, protesters want independent prosecutors to handle cases of officer-involved shootings. The most recent protest by the group has been over DA David Prater’s refusing to file charges against the officers who shot a killed Isaiah Lewis.
Second, they demand that the City establish residency requirements for OCPD officers. The concept is one that some cities already have across the U.S. “If they are going to police us, they should live here, too,” said Adriana Laws, one of the group’s leaders in the first speech about the demands.
Third, the group demands for all authorities, including the police, to end what protesters believe is infringement on First Amendment rights.
Fourth, they want all officers to be required to wear body cameras and turn them on during any encounter with residents. They also want “hassle-free public access upon request.”
Fifth, protesters call for an end to qualified immunity for police officers.
This is the explanation of the concept from the LawFare Blog:
Qualified immunity is a judicially created doctrine that shields government officials from being held personally liable for constitutional violations – like the right to be free from excessive police force – for money damages under federal law so long as the officials did not violate “clearly established” law.
Organizing groups for the event were the Collegiate Freedom and Justice Coalition, Correct Heart, WAR – Whites Against Racism OKC, and Red State Revolt, a Facebook Page and podcast by Mark Faulk.
The Collegiate Freedom and Justice Coalition plans a series of “Moral Monday” actions intended to apply steady pressure for the changes the group is seeking.
The first is Monday, August 3, 2:30 p.m. in Kerr Park. The protest will be against DA David Prater. The group demands that he drop all charges against protesters, end qualified immunity, reopen the Isaiah Lewis case, end cash bail, or resign.
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