The Tulsa community has continued to peacefully rally and demonstrate a week and a half after Terence Crutcher was fatally shot by a Tulsa police officer on Sept. 16.
The Save Our Youth Foundation hosted a protest Monday evening in an effort to diminish negative connotations surrounding the phrase “bad dude,” which is how Crutcher was referred to by an officer in a police helicopter moments before he was shot.
“This issue is bigger than just Terence Crutcher,” Marq Lewis, a spokesman for We the People Oklahoma, said Monday. “This issue is about how people of noncolor view African-American men.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton and other prominent pastors and civic leaders are expected to attend a “National Prayer Call for Justice March” in support of Crutcher’s family in Tulsa on Tuesday.
Organizers of Monday's event, which was staged in front of the Tulsa County Courthouse, had hoped to recruit 100 men wearing suits to protest the stereotype that African-American men are all "big bad dudes.”
About 15 men in suits showed up.
Lewis called for disciplinary action against the officer who was audibly recorded making the “bad dude” comment. The officer’s identity has not been verified.
“We have to make sure that we hold these people accountable instead of just sweeping it under the rug,” Lewis said, comparing the situation to when a Tulsa County sheriff’s deputy was recorded saying to Eric Harris, “F--- your breath,” after Harris was shot by then-Reserve Deputy Robert Bates in April 2015.
The Rev. Earl Jones, a pastor at Rayfield Baptist Church in Muskogee, commended the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office for charging Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby with first-degree manslaughter in Crutcher’s shooting. However, he said, there is more work to be done to prevent similar shootings in the future.
“There is no investigation that could give justification to the unreasonable use of force,” Jones said. Crutcher is seen on police video with his hands up before he was shot, and “hands up means 'I surrender — I give up,'" Jones said. "If this symbol didn’t say compliance, then what symbol does?”
Sandra Givens, vice president of the Save our Youth Foundation, said what happened to Crutcher could happen to any person of color — including her 12-year-old son, Fedro, who joined her at Monday's protest.
“All lives matter, and that includes my son’s,” Givens said as she stood with Fedro in front of the roughly 20-person group.
Plans for Sharpton to attend a rally in Tulsa were publicly announced when the Crutcher family met with him in New York on Wednesday — a day before Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler filed the manslaughter charge against Shelby.
“What has happened is the justice system broke down again, this time on a road in Tulsa,” Sharpton said at his National Action Network’s House of Justice. “We come to Tulsa as repairmen, not to fix the car but to fix the broken system that keeps breaking down.”
Sharpton emphasized that the point of the rally was not to “rile something up.”
“We will conduct ourselves — let me be real clear — in a way that exalts the name and memory and legacy of Terence,” he said last week. “Nobody is coming to do anything that would be out of the spirit that this family has stood up with.”
The event is set to begin at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Greenwood Cultural Center, 322 N. Greenwood Ave., where attendees will begin a march that will end at City Hall, 175 E. Second St., according to a news release.
Sharpton and Jamal Bryant, pastor of the Empowerment Temple AME Church in Baltimore, are expected to speak before the march begins.
Other guests include gospel music artist Hezekiah Walker; political and civic leader Marc Morial; and New York pastor Bishop Albert Jamison.
Sharpton and others will cap off the day with an event at 6 p.m. at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, 5 S. Boston Ave.