OKLAHOMA CITY - Governor Kevin Stitt activated the National Guard on Monday, June 1, to keep the peace in Oklahoma during nation-wide George Floyd protests.
Monday was the third day for protesters to take to the streets of Oklahoma City and Tulsa, advocating for the death of African-American Floyd in Minnesota. Floyd died due to complications caused by the tactical restraint of an officer's knee to the back of the neck during an arrest. The officer has been fired, arrested and charged with murder.
Previous nights of protest have begun peacefully, as demonstrators carry signs and chant, but have all ended with damaged private and city property. Small businesses have been vandalized via broken windows and spray painted curse words and anarchist symbols. Police cars have been damaged in both Tulsa and OKC as windows have been shattered, while the body of the vehicles have been beaten and spray painted. A sheriff's van in OKC was set on fire.
Police in both cities have allowed for peaceful demonstrations, however once damage is done to property, the gatherings are ruled unlawful and crowds are asked to disperse. When unsuccessful in their request, police have given warnings that measures will be taken. The police have used flash bangs, a loud and bright small explosion, tear gas and pepper balls to dispel the crowds. Several arrests have been made, as law enforcement has removed several agitators. As of Monday, more than 4,400 had been arrested across the nation.
Daytime protests have been more successful at having their voices heard, as protestors flocked the State Capitol to clean graffiti from the night before.
Stitt responded to the protests on Sunday, May 31, saying:
“Oklahomans stand together for justice. Like many of you, I am thankful the Minneapolis police officer is being held accountable for the senseless death of George Floyd.
As Oklahomans let their voices be heard, know that I will protect and support your right for peaceful demonstration. All know that this is different from acting out in a way that is violent and damaging property - the State will also support local law enforcement who are respectfully working to stop criminal activity.
Let’s demonstrate the Oklahoma Standard by listening to those who are hurting, by uniting to see change that delivers a better future for all and by being respectful of each other, our police and our first responders.”
Additionally Oklahoma Senator James Lankford released a statement on Sunday via a Fox News interview, saying:
"You take it from the perspective of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who often quoted scripture and who pushed people back on situations like this to say that hate doesn’t drive out hate, only love does that. That’s a biblical principal on how to be able to take these things on…just this simple perspective of being able to love back hate, we watched that at Mother Emanuel (AME) Church years ago as people loved through the course of hate and watched a dramatic change that happened in that community.
So, this is a moment. We have to stand for justice. Justice is a biblical principal. We should address injustice, but destroying things, stealing things are under-cutting the message and it doesn’t help bring back George Floyd or honor his memory. We need to be able to stand for justice. We need to be able to work for racial reconciliation in a way that both honors his memory and finishes the work we should have started a long time ago as a nation."
Washington D.C.'s Response
President Donald J. Trump spoke from the Rose Garden on Monday, June 1, concerning the lack of use of the National Guard in cities and states where the protests have exceeded the limits of local law enforcement and major damage has been done. He finished his speech by visiting the historic St. John's Church, which had been burned the night before.
"My first and highest duty as President is to defend our great country and the American people. I swore an oath to uphold the laws of our nation, and that is exactly what I will do.
All Americans were rightly sickened and revolted by the brutal death of George Floyd. My administration is fully committed that, for George and his family, justice will be served. He will not have died in vain. But we cannot allow the righteous cries and peaceful protesters to be drowned out by an angry mob. The biggest victims of the rioting are peace-loving citizens in our poorest communities, and as their President, I will fight to keep them safe. I will fight to protect you. I am your President of law and order, and an ally of all peaceful protesters.
But in recent days, our nation has been gripped by professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, looters, criminals, rioters, Antifa, and others. A number of state and local governments have failed to take necessary action to safeguard their residence. Innocent people have been savagely beaten, like the young man in Dallas, Texas, who was left dying on the street, or the woman in Upstate New York viciously attacked by dangerous thugs.
Small-business owners have seen their dreams utterly destroyed. New York’s Finest have been hit in the face with bricks. Brave nurses, who have battled the virus, are afraid to leave their homes. A police precinct station has been overrun. Here in the nation’s capital, the Lincoln Memorial and the World War Two Memorial have been vandalized. One of our most historic churches was set ablaze. A federal officer in California, an African American enforcement hero, was shot and killed.
These are not acts of peaceful protest. These are acts of domestic terror. The destruction of innocent life and the spilling of innocent blood is an offense to humanity and a crime against God.
America needs creation, not destruction; cooperation, not contempt; security, not anarchy; healing, not hatred; justice, not chaos. This is our mission, and we will succeed. One hundred percent, we will succeed. Our country always wins.
That is why I am taking immediate presidential action to stop the violence and restore security and safety in America. I am mobilizing all available federal resources — civilian and military — to stop the rioting and looting, to end the destruction and arson, and to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans, including your Second Amendment rights. Therefore, the following measures are going into effect immediately:
First, we are ending the riots and lawlessness that has spread throughout our country. We will end it now. Today, I have strongly recommended to every governor to deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets. Mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled.
If a city or a state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.
I am also taking swift and decisive action to protect our great capital, Washington, D.C. What happened in this city last night was a total disgrace. As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults, and the wanton destruction of property.
We are putting everybody on warning: Our seven o’clock curfew will be strictly enforced. Those who threaten innocent life and property will be arrested, detained, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
I want the organizers of this terror to be on notice that you will face severe criminal penalties and lengthy sentences in jail. This includes Antifa and others who are leading instigators of this violence.
One law and order — and that is what it is: one law. We have one beautiful law. And once that is restored and fully restored, we will help you, we will help your business, and we will help your family.
America is founded upon the rule of law. It is the foundation of our prosperity, our freedom, and our very way of life. But where there is no law, there is no opportunity. Where there is no justice, there is no liberty. Where there is no safety, there is no future.
We must never give in to anger or hatred. If malice or violence reigns, then none of us is free.
I take these actions today with firm resolve and with a true and passionate love for our country. By far, our greatest days lie ahead."
U.S. Attorney General William Barr released a statement on Sunday, May 31, addressing the riots.
“The greatness of our nation comes from our commitment to the rule of law.
The outrage of our national community about what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis is real and legitimate. Accountability for his death must be addressed, and is being addressed, through the regular process of our criminal justice system, both at the state and at the federal level. That system is working and moving at exceptional speed. Already initial charges have been filed. That process continues to move forward. Justice will be served.
Unfortunately, with the rioting that is occurring in many of our cities around the country, the voices of peaceful protest are being hijacked by violent radical elements.
Groups of outside radicals and agitators are exploiting the situation to pursue their own separate and violent agenda.
In many places, it appears the violence is planned, organized, and driven by anarchistic and far left extremists, using Antifa-like tactics, many of whom travel from out of state to promote the violence.
We must have law and order on our streets and in our communities, and it is the responsibility of the local and state leadership, in the first instance, to halt this violence. The Department of Justice (including the FBI, Marshals, ATF, and DEA), and all of our 93 U.S. Attorneys across the country, will support these local efforts and take all action necessary to enforce federal law.
In that regard, it is a federal crime to cross state lines or to use interstate facilities to incite or participate in violent rioting. We will enforce these laws.”