It was not proactive “Stop the Spread,” but it was pro Human Rights. Choosing what battles to fight, deciding what to stand up for can vary and cause conflicts. However, I felt it was important to participate and document the marches for George Floyd, and the Black Lives Matter movement in Oklahoma City on Sunday, May 31, 2020.
Beginning at 2:30 pm (CST) on Sunday, May 31, 2020, protesters took to the streets to “say his name – George Floyd” and send a message that Black Lives Matter. For those that say, “All Lives Matter,” this is true, but it is all or none. When the lives of the black community are safe, then we can stand behind all lives matter. Until then, Black Lives Matter! Enough killing, enough systemic racism, enough! America was built on the backs of slaves on the lands of Indigenous people; the US system is not broken, it is working just as designed, and today we demand a re-design! A new system that discounts no lives, and protects all lives of all races and genders, equally.
No longer will we rely on hashtags and prayers to send a message out; now, we return to roots of the past and put our feet to the pavement in protest. Demonstrating our right as American citizens to have our voices heard, “This is – Democracy!”
I have done nothing to deserve the white privilege I was born into, just as an African Americans did not choose the color of their skin. Today, I use my white privilege in the best way I know how, to seek justice and be a voice for the unheard.
My 13-year-old daughter and I marched with the masses, en route to the Oklahoma State Capital Building. Beginning at N. Kelly Ave. and 36th St. We walked – with signs, with masks, with megaphones, with cameras, and with voices! Chats were heard for miles, “Say his name – George Floyd!,” “No justice – no peace!,” “Fuck Donald Trump,” “Black Lives Matter!,” and many more. Bystanders and participants passed out free water, snacks, and hand sanitizer to those of us marching.
On the steps of the capital protesters were crammed in together, chanting and making their voices heard! It was a very hot, very vocal, and very successful event that lasted several hours.
My daughter went home after 2 strong hours, being a part of the right side of history; I was incredibly proud. It was hot day, feet were sore, and it was not comfortable; she did not complain (too much) and said herself that it was worth it; the cause was worth it. Yes, she’s got the idea.
Following her departure, I drove downtown to the Oklahoma County Jail and precinct at Shartel Ave/Couch Dr and Shartel Ave/Colcord Dr. It was a site to behold. Heavily armed officers guarded the doors and front perimeter of the County Jail while protesters stood chanting behind a barricade and behind them, some sitting and being part of the demonstration silently.
In front of the Oklahoma City precinct were lightly armed officers standing directly behind a barricade and more officers behind them. This was a peaceful protest. Some officers spoke with protesters civilly, but that eventually changed.
Once the sun began to set protesters began to get restless. The first sign of the beginning of protest riots were water bottles being thrown at the officers from the side of the protesters. The initial disturbers were identified as undercover local police officers. Some protesters soon followed suite, though. This caused law enforcement to tell the crowds that this was no longer a lawful gathering and everyone needed to leave. More water bottles flew over the barricade and police backed off. Clapping and cheers from protesters erupted into the night, a protester set off a firework and seconds later the retreated officers threw CS cans of tear gas into the crowd. My leg was lightly burned by the sparks from the firecracker and then seconds after burned by the explosion of a CS can. We ran northbound. Officers immediately then began shooting rounds of rubber bullets into the crowd. Many of us began returning south toward the barricades despite the painful CS; some returned in confusion, some in defiance, some to be of assistance to protesters needing medical attention. We ran back in.
A young girl was hit by a rubber bullet in the arm. Her arm was bleeding quite badly and her mouth foamed and watered from the tear gas. Fellow protesters bandaged her and called for help; we would make sure she got medical attention.
Following this indecent, some people left, some stayed to continue protesting – rioting at this point. Rioting defeats the purpose we hope to accomplish with having our voices heard. An officer at the barricade before the gas and bullets said to a group of us protesters, “You need to keep your own, civil, hold them accountable if you want to peacefully protest.” A protester in front of me said to her, “That is exactly why we are here. To tell you to hold your people accountable.” Yes, this is exactly why we were there.
I walked 3 blocks back to my car and was coughing and spitting most of the way. I did have my mask on all 7 hours of protesting, until those moments when no one was around me, not a soul, and I coughed, spit, and burned. Worth it. A few minor burns and stuffed up lungs are every bit worth helping another human being; be that help in the form of physical presence, chanting a name, raising our hands in the air saying, “Hands up, don’t shoot!” to officers who then gassed and shot into our crowd, or by attending the wounded who were brave enough to come and make their voices heard for those that can no longer speak.
In 2015, police killed at least 104 unarmed black people. That is nearly two each week. It has not stopped there.
There are many good officers; true, good people, but even those good people are serving and supporting a larger establishment that has long been allowed to overlook the bad apples, overlook lives that have been lost, and suffered at the hands of those in authority. For instance, the officers that stood by while one officer murdered George Floyd – I am sure they are decent people, decent officers, even, fine. However, they made the wrong decision, the choice of inaction, and that one choice was probably not the first time. They must be held accountable. They did not do their job. They did not serve, nor did they protect. There is a place for the police, there is a place for laws, and abiding citizens, but also abiding law enforcement. Law enforcement officers all equally lose validity because of what the bad ones get away with – because of what the establishment allows them to get away with. There are good and bad people, in general, good and bad black people, brown people, white people, etc. For too long, injustice has become the standard for minorities, particularly blacks. The balance needs to be redefined to a more just profile; a profile where police and other forms of authority have clear lines to follow in order to uphold the laws and punishments are equal to them as they are to you, to me, to George Floyd, Michael Brown, and so many others. Justice is equal rights for all, including those that have sworn to uphold the law, to serve and protect – not to murder because of their personal beliefs, a bad day, or any other reasons that are unjust to any given situation.
Violence and rebellion are not my first choice of action, not even a second, but what do you think will happen when communities are crushed down, oppressed, unjustly punished, and murdered year after year, after year, after decade, after decade? A rebellion against the establishments that surrendered their dignity and threw aside specific types of people that live under the same roof that we call the United States of America. Change must happen, voices will be heard, and Minneapolis is being seen not just for George Floyd’s murder, but for the lack of protection, lack of service, and lack of decency (to say the very least) that our country and the authorities running it have shown to the black community, poor communities, and brown communities.
Yes, there are good cops out there. Decent humans in law enforcement. People who do the right thing even when it is tough as hell. It is time for them to raise their voices too and do the right thing. Give push-back to the giant they are part of and stand on the right side of this to serve and protect everyone they swore to serve and protect. Hold your fellow officers accountable for their actions and continue to do good work for communities across the United States.
More photos of these two events can be found on my Facebook page as a public post. All photos were taken by me, Janelle Nightingale, and not to be used for any other media or news without permission.
“A riot is the language of the unheard,”
– Martin Luther King Jr.
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