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Black Lives Matter Rally In Oklahoma City Calls For Respect For Police, Open Dialogue

More than 1,000 demonstrators march down the Walnut Ave. bridge in Bricktown during Sunday evening's Black Lives Matter protest.
Brian Hardzinski
More than 1,000 demonstrators march down the Walnut Ave. bridge in Bricktown during Sunday evening's Black Lives Matter protest.

Members of the Black Lives Matter movement marched in downtown Oklahoma City on Sunday to call for policing reform.

Protesters chanted “We come in peace,” “What do we want? Justice,” and “Black lives matter,” as they filled up the pavilion in front of the Harkins Theatre in Bricktown. Along the way, some stopped to share a hug or handshake with on duty Oklahoma City police officers. The demonstration was peaceful, and speakers called for systemic changes for how police interact with minority communities.

Grace Franklin decried the killings last week of black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, as well as the shooting death of five police officers in Dallas.

“Black Lives Matter does not mean any other life doesn’t matter. That’s not what it means. It means that we have to deal with the systemic problem. The problem of young men losing their lives, and young women, losing their lives at the hands of police officers,” Franklin said.


Franklin said many police officers do their jobs every day with dignity and respect for their communities, and she asked officers to report on their peers who are dirty.

“We appreciate and respect the job that police officers do, but you got to call out your brothers and sisters when it’s time to call them out,” Franklin said.

Oklahoma City councilman John Pettis, Jr. asked black youths to consider a career in law enforcement themselves.

“One of the ways we can change discrimination and injustice is for us to become a part of the system, to change this system,” Pettis said.

Attorney David Slane said racial divisions can be solved if people are united, and have open and honest dialogue about the problem.

“We must demand justice. We must demand accountability. We must demand body cams,” Slane said.

The Oklahoma City Police Department’s body camera program was halted last month over a legal disagreement with the Oklahoma City Fraternal Order of Police. Both the police department and Fraternal Order have indicated they would like to resume the use of body cameras once contractual questions about reviewing videos are ironed out.

Medics removed four people from the rally for heat-related emergencies, and treated several others. A small group of counter-protesters waving Confederate flags was escorted away by police.

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Jacob McCleland spent nine years as a reporter and host at public radio station KRCU in Cape Girardeau, Mo. His stories have appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered, Here & Now, Harvest Public Media and PRI’s The World. Jacob has reported on floods, disappearing languages, crop duster pilots, anvil shooters, Manuel Noriega, mule jumps and more.
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