“As police encircle the park, occupiers sing Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Land is Your Land.’ The words of Oklahoma's best-known songwriter seem to have the desired effect on police: They leave quietly.”
Having spent the better part of two months as an embedded reporter with Occupy OKC's camp in Kerr Park (aka Poet's Park) I have often praised both the city and police department. Oklahoma City's occupation has so far managed to avoid the mass arrests and police brutality seen in other cities around the nation. In my opinion, this is largely due to the group's respect for the park and city ordinances, as well as the city's respect for the First Amendment. I frequently pointed to OKC as a model city, setting an example for how a local government and occupiers can peacefully coexist.
So imagine my surprise upon learning that the City of Oklahoma City recently refused to accept the group's $55/day permit fee. Assistant City Manager M.T. Berry told Occupy OKC that not only were they being evicted from Poet's Park, all city parks would be closed to them. Protesters were further informed that anyone remaining in Poet's Park after curfew would face citation or arrest, effective immediately.
The word was blasted out in urgent text messages, Facebook posts and Twitters: “EVICTION IMMINENT! Please come to Poet's Park NOW!”
6:40 p.m. – an emergency General Assembly is called to decide whether to leave the park voluntarily or standoff with police. Occupier Jay Vehige speaks first:
Crowd: “Mic check! Mic check!”
Jay: “I've been arrested twice already and I'll do it again if I know people are with me. I'm not afraid!”
Crowd: “Not afraid!”
Jay: “Clearly (crowd repeats) They've lied to us before. I bet the police officers are suiting up for battle right now. So let's be real. The time has come for us to make our stand. Will we cower? In the corner? Or will we stand against tyranny? We will not allow them to continue to infringe upon our rights. We will stand in solidarity with our brothers and our sisters until our grievances have been redressed by our government!”
The GA's decision is unanimous to stay. Former U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gary Jaymie Johnson stood up and announced, “I've signed up to get arrested. I've already called my fiancee and told her what to expect. I contacted Capt. Byrne (of OCPD) myself and asked him if we'd be evicted from the park and he said no, we wouldn't be. He lied to me. So now I can't trust the city, I can't trust the police department. Right here, right now, we're taking a stand. All of these people out here are the 99% and so are you. And whatever happens, if I get arrested, I will smile when they take my picture.”
Britney Shantel-Guest begins passing around a sign-up sheet for those who are willing to be arrested. Each volunteer is to fill in their full name, phone number, and emergency contact information. Those assembled are assured that anyone arrested will be bailed out of jail.
As the 11 p.m. eviction deadline approaches, a crowd of about 100 people has gathered to defend the park. Marching and chanting helps stave off the 38-degree cold and a biting north wind.
As police encircle the park, occupiers sing Woody Guthrie's “This Land is Your Land.” The words of Oklahoma's best-known songwriter seem to have the desired effect on police: They leave quietly.
The following day, U.S. District Judge Timothy DeGiusti granted Occupy OKC's emergency motion to obtain a Temporary Restraining Order. This would prevent Oklahoma City police from from evicting or making any arrests after curfew until the matter could be decided in court. A hearing was set for the following Wednesday, December 7, on Occupy OKC's motion for preliminary injunction against the city. The judge also required protesters to post a $550 bond within five days.
The 43-page petition filed in federal court by Occupy OKC addressed point-by-point each reason the city was using to justify an eviction. As in most other cities giving protesters the boot, city officials claimed potential health and safety concerns were the reason for revocation of the group's permit.. Occupy OKC countered that participants keep the park as clean as possible, but alleged that the city “has been dilatory about picking up trash at the park,” and that “the Defendant City refuses to provide running water to assist in clean up of the park.”
The group also argued that the city's burdensome permit fees were bankrupting the organization. From the first day of occupation on October 10 until November 27 – the date the city refused to accept any more permit renewal fees – Occupy OKC paid the City of Oklahoma City a total of $2,680. Says the complaint:
“Permit fees charged by the City, and the fees incurred for maintaining portable toilets on-site and service which is an express condition of the permit required by Defendants, have comprised over 90% of the expenses incurred by Occupy OKC. These fees are having the practical effect of starving Occupy OKC and its political message by attrition of funds.”
In the week leading up to Occupy OKC's court date, the city released information to the media designed to make Occupy OKC look like a burden to the taxpayers. The city claimed that it has spent in excess of $58,000 “protecting” the occupiers, including overtime pay for police officers. Wondering how the city could possibly blow through more money in two months than most Americans make in a year, Occupy OKC challenged the city to provide an itemized detail of expenses:
“Plaintiffs dispute this assertion and would contend that Police conducted unnecessary surveillance of the park, even though two police stations are located within six blocks of Kerr Park and the response time from these stations to Kerr Park would be less than one minute. There is no reason that officers regularly assigned to patrol the downtown area could not have handled any and all calls relating to any activity at Kerr Park, and Occupy OKC did not request or require any extraordinary police presence or protection.”
Late in the afternoon, the city notified Occupy OKC that the planned police eviction set for that night was being postponed. Both sides agreed to wait until a federal judge could hear the case and nervously anticipated what would happen next.
After an exhausting day-long trial on Dec. 7 and a long weekend waiting for the federal judge to decide their fate, a ruling was issued on Dec. 12. The news wasn't good. Judge DeGiusti's denial order reads in part: “The court concludes that plaintiffs have not satisfied their burden to show that the circumstances of the case warrant extraordinary relief and that a preliminary injunction should issue to prevent the city from proceeding to enforce its laws regulating the use of Kerr Park.”
Unlike numerous other cities across the country that openly defied overnight camping ordinances, Occupy OKC perhaps wisely decided to avoid the pepper spray. The group complied with the court's ruling and agreed to vacate voluntarily. On the night of Dec. 14, the occupiers assembled to break down the tents and say their goodbyes to Poet's Park.
It was an emotional farewell. This was the place where more than 300 former strangers had sweated out the first General Assembly in 90-plus degree October temperatures. This was where we'd shared many meals together, debated politics, hatched ideas, shared life stories, laughed and quarreled. Here we marched in both the stifling heat and the freezing cold; camped in the pouring rain, experienced a 5.6 earthquake, and frantically battened down the hatches when the first winter storm came barreling in.
This is where we'd met an 18-year-old homeless man named Louis Rodriguez (aka “Street Poet”), who quickly became a beloved part of the camp family. When Street Poet was found dead in his tent here on Halloween, he became the first casualty of the Occupy movement nationwide. His sudden death also had a profound impact on all of us personally. Occupy OKC even managed to track down his estranged family members and flew them in for Louis' memorial service at this park, now unofficially re-named in his honor.
Everywhere you look around this park, there are memories. Strange how you can become so emotionally attached to a place in such a short period of time. Occupy OKC only resided here for two months, but for those who spent long hours working at the park daily or slept here night after night, it was home.
Only one tent was left behind as a symbolic reminder that the occupiers were once here. The park was otherwise left spic-and-span, with all trash disposed of and all evidence of our occupation erased. A couple of occupiers (who shall not be named for obvious reasons) climbed a tree and hung our battered old American flag from one of the high branches. The hope was that Old Glory would continue to fly long after we were gone. Unfortunately city crews tore down the flag the next day; an irony that wasn't lost on us.
On Christmas Eve, Poet's Park sat empty and dark. This once-bustling public square in the heart of downtown should have been glistening with colorful Christmas lights. If the occupiers were still here, there would be hot food cooking, music playing and conversations brewing. There would also be a safe and warm tent city for 20-30 homeless members of the 99% to sleep in.
The true spirit of Christmas eluded Oklahoma City officials and a federal judge this holiday season. Here in the buckle of the Bible Belt, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20)
Link to original article from This Can't Be Happening
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) signed a bill Monday prohibiting cities across the state from establishing mandatory minimum wage and employee benefits, including vacation or sick leave days.
Advocates of the new law contend that efforts to increase the minimum wage across various municipalities could potentially harm local business communities.
"This bill provides a level playing field for all municipalities in Oklahoma," state Rep. Randy Grau (R), a backer of the bill’s House version, said on Monday, according to the Associated Press. "An artificial raise in the minimum wage could derail local...
Shadee Ashtari | Huffington Post 15 Apr 2014 Hits:530 Oklahoma
U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn will finish out the current congressional session and then resign from his seat nearly two years before his term is scheduled to end, he said in a statement released late Thursday.
The 65-year-old Republican said he would give up his seat at the end of the current session in January 2015. His term was scheduled to end in 2016, and Coburn already had vowed not to seek a third.
Coburn, a physician from Muskogee, recently was diagnosed with a recurrence of prostate cancer, but said his decision was...
Sean Murphy | The Huffington Post 17 Jan 2014 Hits:437 Oklahoma
About 200 Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians, conservatives and liberals, hawks and doves show their opposition to U.S. intervention in the Syrian civil war in a nonpartisan rally at the Oklahoma Capitol on Friday in Oklahoma City.
For an hour Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians, conservatives and liberals, hawks and doves didn't seem to mind the nearly triple-digit temperatures during the anti-war rally on the south steps of the state Capitol.
“This is an interesting mix of folks,” said Ben Odom, a former state Democratic Party official, before speaking to the crowd.
“That's been the...
Michael McNutt | The Oklahoman 30 Jul 2013 Hits:296 Oklahoma
Who will be the next victims of a tar sands spill? activists ask
Oklahoma grandmother Nancy Zorn, 79, locked herself to a piece of heavy machinery Tuesday morning in protest of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline construction, halting work on a construction site of the tar sands harbinger for several hours.
Starting early in the morning, Zorn locked herself to the large 'excavator', latching a bike lock around her neck to the machine.
“Right now our neighbors in Arkansas are feeling the toxic affect of tar sands on their community. Will Oklahoma neighborhoods be...
Jacob Chamberlain | Common Dreams 13 Apr 2013 Hits:543 Oklahoma
Patricia Spottedcrow of Oklahoma made headlines in 2010 when she was sentenced to 12 years in prison for her first criminal offense: the sale of a $31 bag of marijuana to an undercover informant. The senseless severity of her sentence caught the attention of advocates who quickly moved to support Spottedcrow, spawning a grassroots uprising that led to a highly unusual decrease in her sentence and, ultimately, to her early release on parole.
Last month, her story went public again when she was reunited with her...
Rebecca McCray | ACLU 07 Jan 2013 Hits:662 Oklahoma
On September 13, the U.S. House and Senate introduced bipartisan legislation to continue funding that will help keep Native American languages alive and spoken throughout our country’s tribal communities. The Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act, first funded in 2008 and set to expire at the end of this year, has funneled more than $50 million into tribal language programs.
Impassioned sponsors of the bill understand the crisis facing Native American languages today. Many languages are endangered and could very well disappear...
Lynn Armitage | Indian Country Today Media Network 08 Dec 2012 Hits:627 Oklahoma
Barrack Obama has an auspicious historical opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Premier Tommy Douglas, Saskatchewan, father of universal health care in Canada, and recently voted “the greatest Canadian.” Forty seven years ago in the face of intense opposition, the most extreme from the Canadian Medical Association, he successfully steered single payer universal health care through the Saskatchewan legislative process. At that time the province of Saskatchewan had a population of one million, one third that of present day Oklahoma. In 1962 it was a poor province. Yet its spirit...
Ron DuBois | Oklahomans for Single Payer 30 Jun 2012 Hits:804 Oklahoma
An Oklahoma mother brought her daughter to a local hospital after she was raped only to be turned away and refused help by a doctor, purportedly because the hospital lacked the staff to properly process the victim’s claims and injuries. Welcome to the reality of processing sexual assault crimes in GOP-land.
The woman and her daughter were reportedly turned away because the hospital did not have any nurses who conduct rape exams on staff. Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) are specially trained professionals who ...
Jessica Pieklo | Care2 01 Jun 2012 Hits:1286 Oklahoma
At U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn's Town Hall meeting in Stillwater earlier this month, he was asked the question so many Canadians ask: "Why don't Americans want what we have?"
He promptly reeled off all the serious problems with Canadian health care. He said the outcomes are worse in Canada for multiple medical procedures compared with the U.S.
He even claimed that health care in Canada is "rationed." He cited the case of a woman with two medical conditions (breast cancer and a broken...
Ron DuBois | Oklahomans for Single Payer 29 Apr 2012 Hits:1087 Oklahoma
Senate Bill 1433, Oklahoma's legislative attempt to define life as beginning at conception, has been stalled in the Oklahoma House of Representatives and will not come to a vote this session.
After passing the Senate earlier this year, the bill was put on the House agenda for consideration yesterday. Proponents and opponents alike filled the House Gallery and after a tense day at the capitol, the bill still had not been heard.
House Speaker Kris Steele today issued the following statement on Senate Bill 1433,...
Rachael Vinyard | Sourced from RH Reality Check 20 Apr 2012 Hits:732 Oklahoma
A lot has been made of the death of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, what the facts show or don't show, who should be believed and of course, the infamous stand your ground laws and claims of "self-defense" by George that Trayvon, with his bag of skittles and ice tea put him in fear of his life sufficient to justify killing the young man. Laws that allegedly prevented Zimmerman from being charged with murder for over a month.
Well, this may be the case...
Steven D | Sourced from Booman Tribune 14 Apr 2012 Hits:779 Oklahoma
PATRICIA SPOTTEDCROW-26 year old mother of four….convicted felon.
It’s doubtful in the annals of Oklahoma crime there has been a more heinous act than her’s-anyone who posed a greater threat to the public at large, that so undermined the well being of the community.
During the course of the last couple of decades the state of Oklahoma has incarcerated more women per capita than any other state-a part of that reality is that sixty five percent of these women committed non violent crimes, and something in the area of...
Rezinate 10 Apr 2012 Hits:948 Oklahoma
The state of Oklahoma is taking a two-pronged approach to trying to grant legal rights to fertilized eggs. First, it is attempting to pass a bill through the state legislature that would grant "personhood" status from the moment of conception. Then it is trying to put the same issue on the ballot in 2012 for citizens to vote on.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, fresh off a win for successfully challenging the state's unconstitutional ultrasound law, is now filing suit against Personhood Oklahoma's ballot amendment.
Robin Marty, RH Reality Check 03 Apr 2012 Hits:654 Oklahoma
Protesters placed pairs of shoes on the north steps of the state Capitol on Tuesday in protest against a bill that would grant "personhood" to fertilized human eggs.
The act of walking away barefoot was intended to show that legislators who support the bill want Oklahoma women to be barefoot and pregnant. The empty shoes left on the steps symbolized women injured or killed by politicized women's health care, said organizer Heather Hall.
The protest, organized by Oklahomans Against the Personhood Act, drew about 200 people. They held signs with messages that...
Katie Fretland | AP 08 Mar 2012 Hits:1130 Oklahoma
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Oklahoma Senate has overwhelmingly approved an anti-abortion "personhood" bill that declares life begins at conception.
The vote Wednesday upset doctors who fear the proposed law will jeopardize reproductive medicine.
The bill now heads to the House, where it is expected to pass. Republican Gov. Mary Fallin typically won't comment on pending legislation, but she has described herself as strongly "pro-life."
The bill provides embryos and fetuses with "all the rights privileges, and immunities" of other citizens.
Republican Sen. Brian Crain says it's modeled after...
SEAN MURPHY | Huffington Post 16 Feb 2012 Hits:1072 Oklahoma
I took this stand because I'm sick of the hypocrisy of Republican lawmakers who want to police women's reproductive health.
As a woman and a 31-year veteran of the legislative process in Oklahoma, I am increasingly offended by state law trends that solely focus on the female's role in the reproductive process. With Oklahoma's new, never-before-experienced Republican majority, we are seeing enactment of more and more measures that adversely affect women and their rights to access safe medical procedures when making reproductive healthcare decisions. ...
Constance Johnson | Guardian UK 09 Feb 2012 Hits:1824 Oklahoma
“As police encircle the park, occupiers sing Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Land is Your Land.’ The words of Oklahoma's best-known songwriter seem to have the desired effect on police: They leave quietly.”
Having spent the better part of two months as an embedded reporter with Occupy OKC's camp in Kerr Park (aka Poet's Park) I have often praised both the city and police department. Oklahoma City's occupation has so far managed to avoid the mass arrests and police brutality seen in other cities around the...
Lori Spencer | This Can't Be Happening OpEd 01 Jan 2012 Hits:921 Oklahoma
In 2010, Patricia Spottedcrow, a mother of four from Oklahoma, was sentenced to an astounding 12 years in prison for a $31 pot sale. In October, a judge modified her sentence, reducing her jail time to what is still a stunning 8 years behind bars.
Spottedcrow's attorney, Josh Welch, told KFOR, "Nobody understands why this woman is serving this long of a sentence for this type of crime. Look at other states; you can commit this same crime and it's not illegal. That's insane....
Kristen Gwynne | AlterNet 27 Dec 2011 Hits:1007 Oklahoma
Sparks, Okla. -- Clouds of dust belched from the corners of almost every room in Joe Reneau's house as the biggest earthquake in Oklahoma history rocked the two-story building.
A roar that sounded like a jumbo jet filled the air, and Reneau's red-brick chimney collapsed. By the time the shaking stopped late Saturday, a pantry worth of food had been strewn across the kitchen and shards of glass and pottery covered the floor.
"It was like, WHAM!" said Reneau, 75, gesturing with swipes of his arms....
Justin Juozapavicius, Associated Press 07 Nov 2011 Hits:603 Oklahoma
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — More than 170 years ago, the proud Cherokee people in the South were brutally driven into exile in Oklahoma along what became known as the Trail of Tears.
Now, an unlikely group of descendants is battling the tribe for its rights. They are the so-called black Cherokees, some of whose ancestors were held as slaves by members of the tribe.
Their quest came to a head in recent days as Cherokees went to polls in northeastern Oklahoma’s Indian country to select a...
Molly Hennessy-Fiske / Los Angeles Times 15 Oct 2011 Hits:949 Oklahoma
Patricia Spottedcrow, a young mother of three, was sentenced to 12 years hard time for the first offense of selling $31 worth of marijuana to an undercover police officer in the Western Oklahoma county of Kingfisher. Though a hearing was set to modify her sentence by Spottedcrow’s new attorney, the new judge presiding over the case issued an order in advance and cancelled the hearing. The Tulsa World reports:
A Kingfisher County judge took four years off a 12-year prison sentence for a first-time...
Colin Hinds 05 Oct 2011 Hits:1400 Oklahoma
Listen "Live" Saturday 7/5 @ 3pm ESTThe Chicano Chronicleswith Jacque DelRio
Special Guest - Rafael Bautiste
PDA is looking for leadership in your state. Please contact us if you are interested in organzing at the state or chapter level.
Email us at: email@example.com
Want to bring progressive change to your state? Start a PDA chapter; send us an email and we'll get you started.
PDA is organized around several core issues. These issues include:
Each team hosts a monthly conference call. Calls feature legislators, staffers and other policy experts. On these calls we determine PDA legislation to support as well as actions and future events.