Marchers Take Case to State Capitol, Police Headquarters

Protesters chant Sunday during a Black Lives Matter rally at the Oklahoma State Capitol.

Protesters in Oklahoma City joined others throughout the nation to call for “systemic change” following the death of yet another Black man at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis.

Protest marches here that started at NE 36th Street and N. Kelley Avenue attracted at least a thousand, who protested peacefully.

That march was organized by familiar rights leaders like the daughter of the late Clara Luper, Marylyn Luper Hildreth, clergymen and the local Black Lives Matter organization.

“This was a well-organized and peaceful protest march,” Russell M. Perry, publisher of The Black Chronicle commented, “and the organizers should be commended”.

But that march was infiltrated, leaders said, by vandalism and that was met with tear gas.

Demonstrators on Sunday marched to the headquarters of the Oklahoma City Police Department.

Hundreds marched from the State Capitol to the downtown police headquarters in a march organized by the local Black Lives Matter group.

 In less than 24 hours before the Sunday march, a chaotic scene unfolded when police shot tear gas and rubber bullets, then, protesters were met by officers who were not wearing gear.

Officers at the site where the clashes occurred Saturday night didn’t wear masks and appeared to be trying to prevent an escalation.

Though the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office had armored vehicles on site, deputies “took a knee” as a demonstration of solidarity with protesters. 

“Walk with us!” the protesters chanted.

On Sunday, hundreds gathered at a parking lot near NE 36th and Kelley.

Marquise Lennox joined the rally to “let our Black men know that we love them and we know their lives are worth something.”

“Even if they’re in jail, their lives are still worth it,” he said.  “My culture has been affected by police brutality.  We’re all connected.  We’re all God’s children and, at the end of the day, no one has the right—I don’t care who you are—to take somebody’s life.”

The rally, organized by the Oklahoma City chapter of Black Lives Matter, was peaceful.

Speakers included the uncle of a 17-year-old fatally shot by Edmond police last year and Oklahoma City Council members James Cooper, JoBeth Hamon and Nikki Nice.

“We are here to demand justice,” said Sheri Dickerson, the organization’s president.  “[We are] demanding justice, not only for what inspired this latest surge of outrage … but to remember that we’ve had so many situations right here within Oklahoma.”

Protests and riots sprang up across the nation last week following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died at the hands of police during an arrest in Minneapolis on May 25.

All four police officers involved were fired immediately and the officer who had placed his knee in Mr. Floyd’s neck as he repeatedly told officers he couldn’t breathe has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

Officials said they are continuing to investigate to determine if the other three involved officers are to be arrested and charged.

Demonstrators in Oklahoma City paid tribute to George Floyd on Sunday with signs that read, “Get off my neck,” and T-shirts emblazoned with the statement, “I can’t breathe.”

Protesters complained of systemic racism in the criminal justice system and of mistreatment at the hands of law enforcement.

Kennell Lee, a 45-year-old mother of four and grandmother of 10, carried a sign that read, “GOERGE FLOYD:  CONVICT ALL RESPONSIBLE.”

“I want to fight for equality,” said Mrs. Lee, crying.  “I fear for my children when they’re pulled over by the police. 

“It’s not right.  Something’s got to change in order to make us trust the people that are supposed to protect us.”

On Saturday night protesters ran to escape clouds of tear gas in downtown Oklahoma City.

Protesters backed away from police headquarters and dispersed at about 2 a.m.

Some of them gathered at NW 23rd Street and N. Classen Boulevard.

Police reported arresting at least 27, including three for assault of an officer.

There were cases of protesters throwing water bottles and rocks at the march at police headquarters.

Shortly after demonstrators arrived at police headquarters, about 11:15 p.m.  Saturday, some pelted a police car with objects, while one person hit it with a skateboard. 

Two people jumped on the car.

“You are not to resort to violence,” an officer with a megaphone said as a wall of police blocked access to the headquarters building.    

“You resort to violence!” a protester screamed back.

Officers fired multiple rounds of tear gas and, later, rubber bullets into the crowd. 

Protesters scattered after every round of the gas, which grew thick at times and drifted for blocks. 

However, afterward dozens of protesters returned to the grassy area as soon as the smoke cleared to continue protesting.

Each time the crowd returned, a police officer told the protesters to leave, saying they were protesting unlawfully.

“You need to leave the area due to the fact you have not assembled peacefully,” the officer said at one point. 

“You damaged property.  You have attempted to injure other people.” 

Several who addressed protesters on Sunday afternoon emphasized the need to deliver grievances forcefully yet peacefully.

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