Groups Sue to Restore Protesters’ Rights After George Floyd Backlash

The following excerpts were reprinted from The Black Wall Street Times. Read the full article.

After the 2020 police lynching of George Floyd in broad daylight inspired the nation’s largest social uprising ever recorded, states like Oklahoma retaliated by criminalizing free speech and intimidating protesters. On Friday, protesters and advocacy groups pushed back, filing two lawsuits to restore the constitutional right to free assembly.

For example, U.S. Marshalls were sent to the homes of peaceful protesters amid an alleged effort to clamp down and silence Black and brown community leaders, Staff Attorney for the National Center for Law and Economic Justice Ranit Patel explained at a virtual press conference on Friday. Not only were some protesters erroneously charged, with some charges later dropped, but attempts to continue protesting the abusive actions of OCPD officers before and during the protests were met with retaliation and criminalization by Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater.

The Constitution, a founding document that conservatives often cite as fundamental, clearly defines the right to assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances. Yet, conservative politicians in Oklahoma quickly responded to Black and Brown protesters after the summer of 2020 by passing laws that chilled free speech and criminalized the very act of protesting. The lawsuits also claim protesters were harassed and surveilled for an unspecified amount of time.

“Once we saw the video of George Floyd’s murder, we started to protest. Police violence happens in Oklahoma too, but it tends to get swept under the rug,” said Sincere Terry, lead plaintiff in both lawsuits. “That is why we protested at 23rd and Classen. There, the police showed us that they think nothing needs to change. Our generation is not going to stand for that.”