A broad spectrum of activists were present at Rose State College for over two hours Thursday to demonstrate against U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
He spoke to a gathering of the Oklahoma Sheriff’s Association on the campus of Rose State College in Midwest City.
Protesters were made to line up behind yellow crime scene tape across the street from where Sessions was scheduled to speak.
Representatives from the organizations Ending Violence Everywhere, All in One Project, The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, NAACP, Black Lives Matter, Democratic Socialists of America group at Rose State and Native American activists all participated in planning and carrying out the protest.
Free Press spent time with the protesters before, during and after Sessions’ engagement.
War on drugs
A common chant throughout the morning was “No more drug war!”
Most of the speakers focused on the war on drugs started under the Nixon administration, continued by successive Republican presidents and now picked up with new energy by Sessions.
“This man is not on the right side of history,” said Quese imc, who is Pawnee and Seminole.
He and another Native American, Nymasis, drummed and sang traditional prayer songs for encouragement during hard times.
His approach to Sessions was similar to others who spoke. They argued that Sessions renewed push for stiffer penalties for drug crimes was a form of racism since drug laws are written to focus primarily on people of color.
One of the speakers is a current Rose State student. Baily Walker is president of Rose State Democratic Socialists of America with about 40 students affiliated and about 15 active members.
“Every single one of us is possibly a victim of this war,” Walker told the group. “As this war has gone on, it has mostly targeted minority people.”
He referred to the practice of targeting minorities and locking them up as “an affront to human rights” and “modern-day slavery.”
Carmen Jacobs is another Rose State student who participated in the protest. Like Walker and a few other Rose State students protesting, she is a member of the Democratic Socialists group.
“We wanted to come out here and show that we were opposed to Jeff Sessions and all that he stands for,” Jacobs told Free Press. “He has a history of being a racist bigot.”
Members of the Black Lives Matter OKC organization were a part of the protest. Some of Jacobs’ ideas matched that group’s concerns as well.
“We don’t support the fact that cops just kill people and just get no punishment,” Jacobs told us. “That’s been going on for decades and that’s an issue.”
Connie Johnson, former Oklahoma legislator and running against two other primary opponents in the Democratic Party was squarely in the middle of the protests and spoke to protestors at two different times during the morning.
She has been outspoken against heavy government spending on incarceration.
“The amount of money involved in criminal justice reform is amazing,” said Johnson. “The fact that we are funding law enforcement based on laws that criminalize behaviors that deserve to be treated is why I’m here.”
She said she objected to Sessions coming to Oklahoma to “roll back the laws that the people of this state have decided were important.”
Johnson was referring to two state questions recently passed that reduced some crimes from felony to misdemeanors, especially drug crimes.
Sessions was reported to have made comments during the speech that were critical of the state questions 780 and 781 voted into law by the public recently. The measures lowered many drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.