Our Experience at the Largest Civil Rights Movement in OKC Since the ’60s

“You can truly grieve for every officer who’s been lost in the line of duty in this country, and still be troubled by cases of police overreach, those two ideas are not mutually exclusive. You can have great regard for law enforcement and still want them to be held to high standards.” Jon Stewart
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We have both always wanted to attend a protest. We believe it is so important to be civically engaged, aware of current events and to get out from behind the hashtags and computer screen to make a difference. This protest provided the perfect avenue for us to participate in our first (and certainly not last) protest and to stand with and for our friends in a peaceful manner while demanding change, awareness and accountability.

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 When we arrived downtown we immediately began walking toward the designated protest area in front of the Harkins Theater in downtown Oklahoma City.

Our initial observations:

  1. Seeing the heavy police presence at the protest was a little jarring. We were fully aware the police would be out in full force for the protection of protestors, onlookers and police, however actually seeing all the police cars and uniformed officers was almost surreal. According to Capt. Paco Balderrama, Public Information Officer, “The Oklahoma City Police Department had about 100 officers working the event.  The officers included Bricktown bike officers, Tactical Unit officers, Emergency Response Team members, Criminal Intelligence officers, and officers from various patrol divisions.  We also had assistance from the FBI and the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office.” KFOR News Article
  2. In addition to the police, one of the first things we saw when walking into the protest area was two large confederate flags held by a group of about six or so people. To see those symbols of hate and division held above a crowd intent on peacefully voicing their grievances was insulting and infuriating but also solidified our sentiments and feelings for the importance of this movement and attending this protest. Another quote from Capt. Paco Balderrama in the news article stated, “Six counter-protesters from a pro-Confederate flag movement were in attendance but left halfway through the event. This group did not have a permit to assemble.” However, the “pro-Confederate flag” individuals were asked to leave by the police from the area, they did not simply “leave” like the statement suggests.

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We listened to local attorneys, pastors and event organizers deliver powerful educational speeches. Each discussed changes police, blacks, whites, and society in general need to make in order to achieve national unity. The overall feelings and messages conveyed throughout the protest were of hope, perseverance, tenacity and accountability. The concrete issues of the Black Lives Matter movement were discussed in conjunction with the experience of African Americans in day to day life and the ever present systemic racism that is prevalent in America.

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Favorite things we witnessed:

  1. A huge outpour of volunteerism and community. A large amount of water bottles were donated for the protest and volunteers were actively passing them out to protestors and onlookers. Additional volunteers worked to keep the protest area tidy by walking through the crowd carrying trash bags picking up discarded water bottles and garbage.
  2. Designated vote registration areas were set up within the protest area. This was a major point made during the rally. Protestors and onlookers were encouraged to register to vote if they had not already done so.
  3. The countless handshakes, fist bumps, hugs and the general mutual respect exchanged between on-duty police and protestors was tremendously inspirational.

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IMG_1431“Even white people are tired of white people’s bullshit!”

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It was encouraging to see numerous women being a voice for the movement. Black Lives Matter is so much more than a blog post, a Facebook status, or a hashtag. In addition to posting on social media, for a revolution to truly take place, men and women must go out and be politically active. We must go out and vote for representatives that stand with us. We must educate our friends and family on what the movement truly stands for. Silence is not the answer. Systematic racism kills. Black Lives Matter.

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