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'Stretch all the way to the sticks of Oklahoma': 1,000-strong crowd turns out for Rally for Black Lives at Guthrie Green

'Stretch all the way to the sticks of Oklahoma': 1,000-strong crowd turns out for Rally for Black Lives at Guthrie Green

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With lawn chairs, plenty of signs and a truckload of bottled water, protesters converged on Guthrie Green on Thursday evening for the Rally for Black Lives.

The crowd, which peaked with more than 1,000 people on the green, along Reconciliation Way and at the pavilion, was one of the latest in a string of ongoing protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death under the knee of a police officer in Minneapolis.

But Thursday night’s gathering was the first such large-scale protest since President Donald Trump announced that he will host his first campaign rally since the COVID-19 shutdown at the BOK Center on June 19.

The Rev. Robert Turner of Tulsa’s Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church spoke to reporters at the rally and said he wants to see the president speak to issues such as police brutality and reparations. He said he’s through with hearing any more rhetoric.

“We’re tired of political speeches. We’re tired of campaign speeches,” Turner said. “We need action. He’s in office right now, and we want to see some action.”

Beyond the looming news of a presidential visit, Turner said the people of Tulsa were “truly remarkable” in their turnout for Thursday’s rally, and he added that he wishes “the leadership of Tulsa reflected the people of Tulsa.”

Turner also spoke on other issues, including the cancellation of the A&E television show “Live PD,” fallout from Mayor G.T. Bynum’s interview with “CBS Sunday Morning” and comments Tulsa Police Department Maj. Travis Yates made on a local radio program.

Although Turner said he welcomed the apology the mayor posted on Facebook on Wednesday and commended Bynum’s earlier decision to no longer have Tulsa police participate in “Live PD,” more has to be done concerning Yates’ comments, he said.

“I think it says a lot about the culture in our Police Department and what they’re willing to uphold,” Turner said. “I’m supposed to feel safe when I’m stopped by a Tulsa Police Department officer? No way when I know that the highest level of the department thinks like that.”

The rally itself saw speakers and performers, as well as a large voter registration effort among the crowd.

Ranesha Smith, a poet who spoke early in the lineup, said she wants to see the inspiration in Thursday night’s crowd carry past Guthrie Green and translate to real change.

“I hope that this really starts a conversation not just in Tulsa but in Broken Arrow, in Jenks, in Owasso,” Smith said. “Let this black lives matter rally stretch all the way to the sticks of Oklahoma, because we need it to count, especially for those who feel like they don’t have a voice.

“Just don’t talk to us. What leaders are saying to us now is just talking to us. We want the change. We want your words to line up with your actions. …

“I’m very hopeful seeing this reach globally that we can stop talking about it and actually start putting our foot in the sand of walking toward that change.”

Gallery: Rally for Black Lives at Guthrie Green on June 11

Stetson Payne 918-732-8135

stetson.@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @stetson__payne

Kyle Hinchey 918-581-8451

kyle.hinchey@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @kylehinchey

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Staff Writer

I cover breaking news, general assignment and other stories. I previously worked at the Enterprise-Journal in Mississippi. I'm from Broken Arrow and graduated with a journalism degree from Oklahoma State University. Phone: 918-581-8466

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"We've been able to get by with that so far because the citizens of Tulsa have sucked it up and done the right thing," Mayor G.T. Bynum said at a Thursday news conference. "But we're moving into flu season. We're moving into cold winter months when more people will not have the option of al fresco dining and spending as much time outside. More people will be inside, and with that comes much greater risk."

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