One year ago: Downtown Oklahoma City erupted into chaos after hours of peaceful protests

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Local activists are looking back at a night of chaos that occurred hours after peaceful protests one year ago.

On May 31, 2020, downtown Oklahoma City erupted into chaos.

Tear gas filled the air as hundreds of people were moving in all directions next to the Oklahoma County Detention Center and Oklahoma City Police Headquarters.

Rev. T Sheri Dickerson, with Black Lives Matter Oklahoma City, said she’s seen some change since that day. However, she said she still feels we’re a long way from where we should be.

“We are going to continue the fight for justice,” Dickerson said.

On May 31, 2020, a march started at N.E. 36th and Kelley Ave. before it made its way to the Oklahoma State Capitol.

The calm scene came after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, in remembrance of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and Isaiah Lewis in Edmond among others.

“This year is going to be a continuation of us demanding justice,” she said.

However, later that night, gunshots rang out. It became chaos. Tear gas canisters were flying into the crowd, water bottles were thrown toward officers, and fireworks even exploded in the street.

Oklahoma City Police Chief Wade Gourley talked with KFOR about it last June.

“I think I can actually go out on a limb and say we have the best de-escalation policy in the country,” Gourley said in an early June 2020 interview.

Gourley was on the record saying that the people in the riot were not the same people from the afternoon protest and march.

“That crowd grew to about 3,000 people, marched to the Capitol,” he said. “We had no officers anywhere in that area because we knew we didn’t need to be there.  We knew those were Oklahoma City folks and that’s how Oklahoma City folks respond.”

Fast forward to 2021. Dickerson said she still sees things that haven’t changed.

“There’s a lot going on in Oklahoma, but it’s not going on in a positive manner,” Dickerson said.

She pointed to the recent banning of critical race theory being taught in Oklahoma schools. Gov. Kevin Stitt voiced his approval for the bill via Twitter shortly after signing the measure into law.

“Not one cent of taxpayer money should be used to define and divide young Oklahomans,” Stitt said in the video.

Dickerson cited other bills like granting protection to drivers who hit someone while leaving riots. She also pointed to the deaths of Bennie Edwards in northwest Oklahoma City and 15-year-oild Stavian Rodriguez.

“All the people that have died by state sanctioned violence would still be here,” Dickerson said. “That’s what justice looks like.”

Last year, Oklahoma City officials created a law enforcement policy task force. They are a working group to study police reform. Their first meeting was held with the public in April. However, Dickerson said we still haven’t gotten to where it needs to be.

“We’re going to work very diligent in making sure that leadership does their job and stops oppressing people of color,” Dickerson said.

KFOR did reach out to the Oklahoma City Fraternal Order of Police, but they were not available for comment.

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