OKLAHOMA CITY — After lifting the four-block curfew enacted on Sunday, Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt and Rep. Ajay Pittman joined peaceful protesters Tuesday night in front of the Oklahoma City Police Headquarters.
Tuesday marked the fourth straight night of Oklahoma City-based protests against racial injustice and the death of George Floyd under the knee of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Protests have now spread to several areas of Oklahoma, including Norman, Tulsa and Enid.
Over 100 people gathered together to peacefully protest and stand in solidarity with one another Tuesday. Holt placed himself in the forefront of the protests, standing on the barrier separating protesters and police and listening as protesters voiced opinions, stories, questions, desires and demands.
“What are you going to do about excessive force being used within your police department?” a protestor asked. “Because you can be out here all you want and we appreciate that we really do, but what are you going to do to put an end to our fear?”
Protesters poured out their hearts and raw emotion to the mayor Tuesday night — many began to cry, as they explained they couldn’t handle the injustices anymore. They demanded that change take place.
Holt said he realized protesters’ pain and was aware of what they are going through and the stories behind their anger.
“There’s a lot of pain and a lot of hurt,” Holt told The Transcript. “It’s not just two or three people — it’s easy to kind of block it out when it’s a small number of people but it’s not. So, you’ve got to listen, and if you’re somebody like me who’s had a pretty blessed life, from many ways, you need to see that raw emotion...it’s probably weird to see a mayor put himself through this and have people scream at him, but I think I need to see that. These are my people too.”
Pittman, D-Oklahoma City, also spoke in front of the protesters, applauding the work they have been doing and the message they are sending while peacefully protesting.
“I want to say thank you for being here,” Pittman said. “There’s a lot of young people here and they tend to tell us that as young people our voices don’t count and our voices don’t matter. But if you look throughout history young people are the ones who make the changes, young people are the ones who led the protests and young people make the history.”
Pittman asked protesters to show up in their governments by voting and getting involved, to show up not just in November, but in June for local elections and in February when legislative sessions start.
Holt later moved away from the police barricades further down the street, where he engaged in conversation with protesters who had specific questions and demands from him.
Black Lives Matter Oklahoma City put out a list of demands for the city at 7:00 p.m. on Monday. The organization noted that peaceful protesting would continue if the mayor did not meet the demands within a 24-hour deadline.
Holt said Tuesday that he will do everything in his power to meet those demands, and has already met with leaders of Black Lives Matter OKC to talk about ways to go about enacting change. But the mayor also said he does not have the ability to meet all the demands requested of him.
“I feel like I spend half my time giving civic lessons to people about what the mayor of Oklahoma City does,” Holt said. “So, I’ve been through that a lot these last few days just well, ‘I can’t do that even if I wanted too’ and that’s fine. I’m a frustrated college professor, I feel like — I enjoy the back and forth and trying to help people understand...all we can do is all we can do, and I’m going to give it my best.”
At around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, the protesters marched down to Monday night’s location, located on Fourth Street and Shartel Avenue, where they began peaceful protesting for the rest of the night. At about 11:50 p.m., two of the protesters collected money from each other and went and bought pizza for everyone to eat.
“It’s going to be a long night,” one protester said. “But our voices will be heard.”