A group of ministers and others from Tulsa’s various faith communities marched on City Hall on Monday to pray for justice and racial healing while continuing a call for police reform.
The Unity Over Violence Prayer March began Monday morning at the Greenwood Cultural Center with several speakers addressing the crowd before more than 300 marchers walked the mile-long route to converge on City Hall.
The Rev. C.J. Neal, march organizer, said Greenwood was chosen as the starting point because it was the site almost 100 years ago of the Tulsa Race Massacre.
“The ground you are standing on is hallowed ground,” Neal told the crowd. “In 1921, because of hate, because of fear, because of jealousy, people lost lives, property and, in a sense, a community, because people did not stand up and say, ‘This is not what we are about.’ ”
Joining Neal, the Rev. Warren Blakney said the recent video of George Floyd’s death under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer was an all too painful reminder of the violence he witnessed firsthand during the 1960s civil rights marches in the South.
“As I sat there watching, I could hardly hold back the tears. Because I saw my grandchild. I saw my son. I saw every child in the church where I preach,” said Blakney, of North Peoria Church of Christ.
“We can’t keep quiet anymore,” he added. “What I encourage us to do today and tomorrow and the next day and the day after that is if all you’ve got is your voice, then use your voice.”
In his comments to marchers, former Tulsa Police Chief Drew Diamond, executive director of the Tulsa Jewish Federation, called out both Mayor G.T. Bynum and the city’s police union.
“We have a mayor who says racially biased policing is not real, that thousands of citizens of this city who are black or brown — that their testimonies are not true,” Diamond said. “We have a Fraternal Order of Police that comes out and says we don’t need any oversight.”
Diamond added: “All politics are local. All policing is local. This is about us. This is about what we want to do in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And this is about saying to the mayor, ‘It’s time, Mr. Mayor, you become accountable.’”
Activist Greg Robinson, an organizer of the recent We Can’t Breathe protest in Tulsa, fired up the crowd at City Hall, leading a chant of “Hands up. Don’t shoot.”
“Coming together sounds cool. Unity sounds good. You know what sounds better? Justice,” Robinson went on to say. “What sounds better than a false peace is justice.”
Robinson reiterated the demands of police reformers in Tulsa, including the need for an Office of the Independent Monitor. He said having that office would’ve helped after the death of Terence Crutcher, who was fatally shot by then-Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby in 2016.
“Betty Shelby didn’t get convicted not because she wasn’t guilty,” Robinson said. “The reason was because there wasn’t a system of oversight and accountability to ensure that there was a real, adequate investigation into the killing. That’s why we must have an Office of the Independent Monitor.”
Prayer was a central part of the event, both before and after the march. Among the several ministers who led prayers outside City Hall was the Rev. Layla Caldwell.
“We thank you, Father God, for allowing us to come together as one. United we stand; divided we fall,” said Caldwell, pastor of Agape Outreach Ministries.
The Rev. Paul Daugherty of Victory Church, one of Tulsa’s largest congregations, addressed the crowd before he prayed.
“There is no superior race,” he said. “We are all family of God.
“I want to repent (for) the sins that have happened in our nation that have come from white people towards black people,” Daugherty added. “I want to pray right now specifically for Tulsa, for what happened almost 100 years ago, and that God will bring healing in our city.”
Daugherty led a march in south Tulsa for racial healing on Sunday.
Neal said he asked Daugherty to be a part of the march Monday “after hearing his words yesterday. And the first words out of his mouth were: ‘What do you need? What can I do? I’m ready to be of service.’ ”
“That’s what we need,” Neal added. “We need people who are ready to focus on making change.”
The march was organized in part so that he and the other ministers could speak with “one voice,” Neal said.
“We are standing together to say that we want change,” he added.
“It is our duty not just as citizens, but it is our moral obligation, to make sure each and every individual that lives in these United States has the right to live without fear of dying.”
Gallery: Ministers, faith leaders unite for prayer march on City Hall
WASHINGTON — Democrats in Congress proposed a far-reaching overhaul of police procedures and accountability Monday, a sweeping legislative response to the mass protests denouncing the deaths of black Americans in the hands of law enforcement.
The political outlook is deeply uncertain for the legislation in a polarized election year. President Donald Trump is staking out a tough “law and order” approach in the face of the outpouring of demonstrations and demands to re-imagine policing in America.
“We cannot settle for anything less than transformative structural change,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, drawing on the nation’s history of slavery.
Before unveiling the package, House and Senate Democrats held a moment of silence at the Capitol’s Emancipation Hall, reading the names of George Floyd and many others killed during police interactions. They knelt for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — now a symbol of police brutality and violence — the length of time prosecutors say Floyd was pinned under a white police officer’s knee before he died.
Trump, who met with law enforcement officials at the White House, characterized Democrats as having “gone CRAZY!”
As activists beyond Capitol Hill call to restructure police departments and even to “ defund the police,” the president tweeted, “LAW & ORDER, NOT DEFUND AND ABOLISH THE POLICE.” He declared later, “We won’t be dismantling our police.”
Democratic leaders pushed back, saying their proposal would not eliminate police departments — a decision for cities and states — but establish new standards and oversight.
Joe Biden, the presumed Democratic presidential nominee, “does not believe that police should be defunded,” said spokesman Andrew Bates.
The Justice in Policing Act, the most ambitious law enforcement reform from Congress in years, confronts several aspects of policing that have come under strong criticism, especially as more and more police violence is captured on cellphone video and shared widely across the nation and the world.
The package would limit legal protections for police, create a national database of excessive-force incidents and ban police choke holds, among other changes.
It would revise the federal criminal police misconduct statute to make it easier to prosecute officers who are involved in “reckless” misconduct and it would change “qualified immunity” protections to more broadly enable damage claims against police in lawsuits.
The legislation would ban racial profiling, boost requirements for police body cameras and limit the transfer of military equipment to local jurisdictions.
Overall, the bill seeks to provide greater transparency of police behavior in several ways. For one, it would grant subpoena power to the Justice Department to conduct “pattern and practice” investigations of potential misconduct and help states conduct independent investigations.
And it would create a “National Police Misconduct Registry,” a database to try to prevent officers from transferring from one department to another with past misconduct undetected, the draft says. A long-sought federal anti-lynching bill that has stalled in Congress is included in the package.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., a co-author with Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., and Democratic senators will convene a hearing on the legislation Wednesday.
“The world is witnessing the birth of a new movement in this country,” said Bass, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, which is leading the effort.
While Democrats are expected to swiftly approve the legislation this month, it does not go as far as some activists want. The outlook for passage in the Republican-held Senate is slim.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose Louisville hometown faces unrest after the police shooting of Breonna Taylor in her home, said he would take a look at potential Senate legislation.
It is unclear if law enforcement and the powerful police unions will back any of the proposed changes or if congressional Republicans will peel off some of their own proposals.
Republicans are likely to stick with Trump, and GOP campaign officials bashed efforts underway in some cities to reallocate police funds to other community services.
Yet McConnell was central to passage of a 2018 criminal justice sentencing overhaul the president signed into law, and some key GOP senators have expressed interest in more streamlined changes to policing practices and accountability.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who marched with protesters Sunday, told reporters late Monday at the Capitol that he is working with other Republican senators “to see if we can’t fashion a piece of legislation which could receive bipartisan support to make some changes to the way we do our policing.”
The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has said his panel intends to hold a hearing to review use of force and other issues, and other GOP lawmakers have suggested Floyd’s death could spark more modest changes.
Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, who marched in support of Floyd in Houston, penned an op-ed Monday about how his own black father instructed him to respond if he was pulled over by the police, and suggested proposals for changes in police practices.
What started with the Black Lives Matter movement after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., has transformed with the killings of other black Americans into a diverse and mainstream effort calling for changing the way America polices its population, advocates say.
“I can’t breathe” has become a rallying cry for protesters. Floyd pleaded with police that he couldn’t breathe, echoing the phrase Eric Garner said while in police custody in 2014 before his death in New York.
“All we’ve ever wanted is to be treated equally — not better, not worse,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.
Biden’s own platform reflects much of the approach from congressional Democrats, and his former presidential primary rivals, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.Y., and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., are co-authors of the package in the Senate.
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Gov. Kevin Stitt’s Sunday night panel discussion on race left a lot unsaid, two black legislators said Monday.
State Reps. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa, and Jason Lowe, D-Oklahoma City, chair and vice chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, said the discussion should have provided a broader perspective and at times seemed tone deaf to the issues it was trying to address.
Charlie Hannema, Stitt’s communications director, said the program was intended to be the first of several and represents a “first step.”
“Gov. Stitt referred to the death of George Floyd (in Minnesota) and said, ‘We do not want this to happen in Oklahoma,’ ” Goodwin said in a written statement. “This has already happened in Oklahoma. Elliott Williams, a black man with a broken neck, died in custody; an unarmed Terence Crutcher was murdered by a police officer and both incidents were videotaped, among numerous other incidents of innocent black people being murdered.”
Williams died in 2011 of injuries suffered and left untreated while in the Tulsa County jail. Tulsa County ultimately agreed to pay $10 million to settle the lawsuit brought by Williams’ family.
Crutcher was shot to death by Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby in 2016. A jury found Shelby not guilty of manslaughter but questioned her suitability for policing and recommended changes to TPD training. Shelby now works for the Rogers County Sheriff’s Office.
Goodwin said Stitt asked “What can elected officials do?” but has ignored recommendations from her caucus, as has the rest of the state’s leadership.
In recent sessions, Goodwin has particularly focused without success on strengthening laws related to body-worn cameras, which are not always turned on during law enforcement encounters with the public.
Sunday’s panel consisted of Stitt and his wife, Sarah; Oklahoma City pastor Clarence Hill, founder of faith-based Stronger Together; Moore Police Chief Todd Gibson; Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Marcus Williams; and Oklahoma City pastor Herbert Cooper.
Three of the panelists were black, two were white and Stitt is a member of the Cherokee Nation, although he is currently at odds with the tribe over gaming rights.
Some thought the panel should have included more women and other minorities as well as people who have been on the front lines of recent protests.
“In Oklahoma, we have a deep bench of academics, civil rights leaders, activists and elected officials who could have led the governor and panel in a difficult, yet extremely important conversation,” Lowe said in a written statement. “Instead of a substantial meeting on inequity, we had a superficial show of solidarity.”
Hannema, in an email, said Stitt plans a future program with Tulsan Rose Washington, the chief executive officer of TEDC Creative Capital. Washington is highly respected for her work putting together financing for economic development in underserved parts of the city, but she has not been front and center during the recent protests and discussions sparked by Floyd’s death while in police custody.
“(Stitt) made it clear during (Sunday’s) event that it was one step of many, not a comprehensive one-time discussion,” Hannema said.
Video: Gov. Kevin Stitt holds a round table discussion on race
Gallery: Ministers, faith leaders unite for prayer march on City Hall
Tulsa police on Monday released the name of the victim of a fatal shooting by a motel security guard this weekend.
Carlos Carson was killed Saturday in a shooting at the Knights Inn, according to a press statement from the Tulsa Police Department. Christopher Straight, a security guard at the motel, is charged with first-degree manslaughter.
Straight, identified in jail records as a 53-year-old white man, is a former jailer at the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office. Police allege that he initiated the fatal altercation with Carson, who police said was a 36-year-old black man.
Investigators indicate in a probable cause affidavit that Straight started the altercation by pepper spraying Carson and that the use of pepper spray was unprovoked.
Carson had stayed at Knights Inn, 1021 S. Garnett Road, on Friday night, according to a probable cause affidavit. He had complained to motel management about vandalism to his vehicle, and a motel manager had asked him to leave the motel property.
Straight and Carson reportedly exchanged words as Carson left the property. About five minutes later, Carson was seen on surveillance video walking toward Straight’s pickup.
Straight stepped out of the vehicle and sprayed Carson with a burst of pepper spray.
“It did not appear that (Carson) was physically aggressive at that moment to provoke Straight,” an investigator wrote in the affidavit.
After he was sprayed, Carson threw a coffee cup at Straight’s truck and physically attacked Straight, who then shot Carson, police allege in the affidavit.
“Straight stated that he sprayed the OC spray at (Carson) to ‘deter’ him from being aggressive, and that he planned on detaining (Carson) for trespassing until police arrived,” the affidavit says.
Straight acknowledged to investigators that he shot Carson, according to the affidavit.
Straight was booked into Tulsa County jail Saturday evening on a complaint of first-degree manslaughter. He posted a $50,000 bond and was released about two hours later. According to jail records, he is scheduled for a June 11 court appearance.
He did not return a request for comment made Monday morning. Representatives with the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training, the governing body that licenses security guards, did not respond Monday to a request for Straight’s certification status.
Straight resigned from the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office in 2018. At the time he was a sergeant at the jail, where he had worked since 2005. He resigned amid an internal investigation that would have resulted in his demotion to detention officer, according to Sheriff’s Office records.
Straight submitted his resignation and requested early retirement after a hearing about the internal investigation.
“I have really tried to set a good example for the troops and to go above and beyond in boosting moral [sic] on my shift, but it has become an uphill battle this last year to where I seem to stay on the chopping block for one thing or another and have been placed in a no win situation with the administration running the jail,” Straight wrote in his resignation letter.
What led to the internal investigation, the imminent demotion and Straight’s resignation was unclear Monday.
Federal court records indicate that Straight was the subject of three lawsuits by jail inmates related to his behavior while on duty.
All three lawsuits were filed by inmates without the assistance of lawyers, and none resulted in Straight’s receiving any legal sanctions. However, in the most recent case, a Tulsa federal judge found that Straight was entitled to qualified immunity, an increasingly controversial legal doctrine that protects government employees from lawsuits for on-duty conduct unless there is clear proof of a violation of federal law or a person’s constitutional rights.
Straight had been accused in that lawsuit of failing to protect a prisoner from being beaten by another prisoner in 2016 despite knowing a conflict existed. The court found that the claim was “tenuous” and that there was little, if any, information to support the contention that Straight had sufficient knowledge to prevent the attack from occurring.