By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
July 8, 2016, Updated July 10, 2016
Following the recent fatal shootings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and other recent killings of black Americans, Black Lives Matter Oklahoma, OKC Artists for Justice, NAACP OKC, the MLK Coalition, and the ACLU of Oklahoma will hold a peaceful protest and memorial vigil in “solidarity with the impacted families and communities.”
The gathering will take place in Oklahoma City’s Bricktown district at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, July 10, at the Harkins Theater Fountain, 150 E. Reno Avenue..
An optional march will step off at 5:15 p.m. from the historic Calvary Baptist Church (now the Dan Davis Law Center), located at 300 N. Walnut Avenue.
Built in 1921, Calvary Baptist was the scene of a “Freedom Rally” where famed civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech on July 29, 1960 to a crowd of about 1,500 Oklahomans. The church served as the staging area for sit-ins at Oklahoma City lunch counters and rallying point for civil rights marches led by Clara Luper and others. It was added to the National Register in 1978.
The evening’s event will also include speakers, music, poetry, and an opportunity for communities to come together and mourn the loss of those who were killed.
“We are gathering with unity and peace to have enlightening and educational conversations,” said Rev. T. Sheri Dickerson of Black Lives Matter Oklahoma. “This event is about solidarity. In no way are we trying to vilify or alienate law enforcement, which would be totally contradictory to our baseline cause.”
In a press release received by The City Sentinel, event organizers expressed their “heartfelt condolences to the families of the officers who lost their lives in Dallas on Thursday evening. The shooters who callously and horrifically took the lives of the innocent officers in Dallas are not affiliated with Black Lives Matter.”
Dickerson said, “We condemn their action and all such acts as incompatible with our message and with our sense of human decency.”
During the event, Black Lives Matter Oklahoma and their partner organizations look for an opportunity to have unifying and peaceful dialogue, calling attention to “injustice rather than creating new injustices.”
“This event was prompted by the social injustice committed recently in our nation,” said Karen Gains, co-organizer for Black Lives Matter OK. “Let us be clear. We are not a hate group. We, like the rest of the world, are praying for the victims of Dallas. Our peaceful protest and memorial vigil is meant to honor those we have lost due to unnecessary violence and to call our leaders to pursue adamant justice.”
Event organizers are working closely with local law enforcement to ensure the security of those who attend, emphasizing, “safety is of the utmost importance and will be taken very seriously.”
As reported by KGOU’s Kate Greer, Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty said of Sunday’s event, “We support peaceful protesting. We always have. It’s the community’s right to be heard. We want to make sure that those protesters are also secure in what they want to do because they do have a right to do that.
“Security will have to be enhanced a few more people, and again it’s not just for law enforcement, but for the protesters themselves,” Citty said.
Several current and former elected officials have pledged their support, along with prominent members of the community and organizations from around Oklahoma according to the press release.
“We cannot allow fear to prevent us from standing up for what is right,” said Auzia Antwine, also of Black Lives Matter OK. “We must continue to stand up for black lives and the lives of all citizens in this country even, and especially, in the case of adversity. Our greatest fear is that we will not be heard. The voices that rise in opposition cannot be louder than our own. We must work together to ensure we are heard.”
Organizers ask participants to wear black in solidarity with “those who have lost their lives, their family members whose lives are changed forever, and those who continue to live their everyday life in fear of falling victim to excessive force.”
“The culture that dehumanizes the lives of people of color during encounters with law enforcement is not an accident,” said Ryan Kiesel, Executive Director of ACLU of Oklahoma. “It is a consequence of some of the most purposeful public policies of our time.
“This event is an opportunity to peacefully serve notice that we will not stand for a system that represents an ever present threat to people of color and unnecessarily jeopardizes the lives of law enforcement officers,” Kiesel added.
BLM-OK co-organizer Sheri Amore said, “I am horrified and greatly saddened by the tragedy that occurred in Dallas, TX as the peaceful protest BLM event was coming to a close. Our thoughts and prayers extend to each officer and their families, as well as any civilians that were injured and affected in this heinous crime.”
Citty went on to tell Greer, “This shouldn’t be an indictment against peaceful protesters that have a legitimate message and concerns. This should not be a reflection on those individuals who have concerns about law enforcement and wanting us to do our job better. We can always do it better.”
For more information, visit the Black Lives Matter Oklahoma’s Facebook Event Page.
Information can be accessed regarding citizen’s rights when protesting, when encountering law enforcement, or film encounters with law enforcement by using the ACLU-OK’s Mobile Justice App.