Organizers of Sunday's Black Lives Matter rally in Bricktown praised Oklahoma City police for their response and restraint during the event. Oklahoma City officers mostly provided security, and at one point created a perimeter between the activists and counter-protesters across the street.
"I’ll be honest, they have been absolutely great,” said Karen Gaines, one of the event’s three primary organizers. “They have been tremendously helpful, just all the way around. They’ve asked us if we needed anything. They were very supportive actually.”
Another organizer, Auziah Antwine, told The Oklahoman’s Ben Felder the posture law enforcement took made a huge difference:
“People are so angry that sometimes they see the symbol of law enforcement and that alone is enough to make them hurt inside and want to do something. The way (police) chose to be present helped people to see them as people and not as the flawed system.”
Capt. Paco Balderrama said the posture of police at Sunday's event was intentional.
“You didn't see any armored vehicles or anything like that, but that doesn't mean they weren't ready to go,” Balderrama said. “(Police) showed a lot of restraint and showed a lot of patience. They didn't react when it was unnecessary. They greeted people, they engaged with the crowd.”
Balderrama said even though armored vehicles or riot gear weren't visible, that doesn't mean police weren't ready to respond if the demonstration turned violent.
Police erected a portable tower near the intersection of Mickey Mantle Drive and Reno Ave., and a helicopter circled overhead throughout the rally.
Suspect Arrested For ‘Terrorism Hoax’
Questions have been raised about the arrest of a man during Sunday's rally. 24-year-old Brandon Lara is being held in the Oklahoma County jail on complaints of attempting to create a terrorism hoax using smoke bombs.
Lara is described as white in his booking record. Oklahoma City police say they stopped Lara after seeing him walk around the protest with his face covered and a bag slung over his shoulder, according to The Oklahoman’s Graham Lee Brewer:
Officers approached Lara to check a bag he had slung across his body. Inside, officers found eight cylindrical devices described as smoke bombs, each 6 inches long. Lara, who was wearing sunglasses and a bandanna, was in custody at the Oklahoma County jail Monday morning.
He initially told police he did not want to be searched, demanded to be released and called his detainment illegal.
An officer who spoke with Lara said his comments were consistent with the Sovereign Citizen movement agenda and propaganda. Lara was arrested without incident.
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the Sovereign Citizen movement as an antigovernment group that feels they should decide what laws they can obey or ignore, and that they don’t have to pay taxes.
A companion who attended the rally with Lara says the smoke bombs were in his bag inadvertently. Grayson Hightower told the online publication The Gayly, that as they were trying to get close to the speaker, an officer called them over. Hightower said Lara typically goes by the name “Donny”:
“The cop said to take his bandana off so he did and walked with the cop. They asked for his ID and so Donny gave him that. Then he [the police officer] opened his [Donny’s] bag. They [the police] called more people in and then told him he was under arrest for not complying with law enforcement even though he did everything they asked.
“And then, they thoroughly searched his bag and found smoke bombs from the Fourth of July because they [Lara and friend] had a fire breathing show [which they, reportedly, frequently perform].”
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