Oklahoma City National Memorial sustains damage during protests

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma City National Memorial was one of the buildings to sustain damage in a night of unrest on Sunday.

“It hurt me,” said Shandelle, who was at the memorial first thing Monday morning. “It hurt me and it felt like it hurt Oklahoma.”

Shandelle made her way to the Oklahoma City National Memorial as soon as she found out it was the subject of vandalism during protests after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Floyd, a black man, died after a white Minneapolis officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air.

During the protests in Oklahoma City, a monitor on the side of the memorial’s building was shattered.

Down toward the end of the building, spray paint was on the The Heritage’s side. 

“When I found out that this site was damaged, I came right out to see if there was anything I could do to restore it,” Shandelle said. 

Her father, a paramedic, was one of the first on scene after the bombing – she also lost a dear friend.

“So this site has always been very sacred to me,” she said. 

Oklahoma City police say according to their initial reports, two people were arrested in connection to the vandalism.

“I do not know if that would be a federal charge at this point or not,” said Captain Larry Withrow. 

Officials add that the day started peaceful but as the sun set, it appeared the original group disbanded and a new one came in.

“This group had a much different demeanor,” Withrow said. “They were much more vocal, verbally hostile and it didn’t take long until they became physically aggressive toward officers, throwing items at the officers. They also began discharging fireworks.”

Now, the cleanup and repairs begin across the city.  

“I fully support the protest, I think it needs to be done but I do not support the vandalism whatsoever,” said Shandelle. 

Including this spot so sacred to so many. 

“We have a job to make sure that people understand the sanctity of this place and we’re about peace and non-violence,” said Kari Watkins, executive director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. “Enough violence has happened on this site. We don’t need more. But it’s also up to us to teach the next generation. Some of these people are not Oklahomans.  I heard a conversation with a young guy saying why did you do this to this place? That’s very important.”

Watkins says Oklahoma City Police are handling the investigation and the suspects have been identified. 

“I talked to the police chief late last night and we’ve asked that instead of prosecuting the perpetrators that we have them walk though this site and have them go through the museum with a family member, a survivor, several policemen and have them understand this story, the senselessness of violence and then to sit down and have some better conversations,” she said. “In my mind, that’s better than charging these people with a felony.”

Watkins says it’s time for important conversations and they are working to help facilitate them at the memorial. 

“They’ve done an incredible job with a very peaceful protest then to come downtown and do damage totally deteriorates what the afternoon had happened,” she said. “I think we’ve got to keep working and we’ve got to keep listening as a community we’ve got to keep coming together.”

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