Years of frustration and anger rained down on city councilors and Mayor G.T. Bynum on Wednesday evening as more than a dozen speakers — backed by a roomful of supporters — implored councilors to vote in favor of holding public meetings on the 2018 Equality Indicators report.
The nine-member City Council did just that, in unanimous fashion. But first came the fiery words, silent protests and songs that filled the Council Chambers of City Hall.
It was unrelenting.
Tiffany Crutcher, sister of Terence Crutcher, displayed several paper bags she said contained her brother’s personal belongings. Terence Crutcher was shot dead by Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby in 2016. A jury found Shelby not guilty of first-degree manslaughter, but nearly three years later, the incident remains fresh in the minds of those calling for police reforms.
“We asked for one simple thing — for all of you to figure out why this happened to my brother,” said Tiffany Crutcher.
Roma Snowball-Presley, the mother of Joshua Harvey, said she was hurt, not angry, about how police treated her son and the city’s response to it. Harvey died days after he was tased multiple times during an interaction with officers Aug. 24 at the Arvest Bank at 502 S. Main St.
“There is no way we can continue to live like this, with our officers attacking our people — black, white, Mexican — it doesn’t matter,” she said.
Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper has been pushing for the public meetings since the Equality Indicators report was released in April. The report found significant disparities — disputed by the police union — between the city’s African-American population and other races in terms of the number of arrests and use-of-force incidents.
The meetings are intended to explore how the numbers were determined and what can be done to improve outcomes. The proposal approved Wednesday night calls for four meetings to be held on Wednesday evenings. No dates have been set.
The public will not be allowed to make comments during the Equality Indicators meetings, but the council will take public comments at City Council Chambers the week before each meeting.
Councilors have left open the possibility that a community member will be asked to serve as one of the panelists in the meetings.
Hall-Harper, who initially proposed a format that would have allowed the council to invoke its subpoena powers, called the meeting format approved Wednesday a compromise.
“But I hope that we can still make some progress,” she said.