It was a day of dueling rallies. Al Sharpton spoke Tuesday afternoon at the Greenwood Cultural Center, then led a march to Tulsa’s City Hall. Not far away, at the Tulsa County Courthouse (and later at south Tulsa’s Hunter Park,) law enforcement supporters rallied as well.
And though those rallies were sparsely attended — about 10 people showed up at the courthouse, and maybe 20 or so, including Robert Bates’ wife Charlotte, and Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton were at Hunter Park — the attendees were passionate about their support.
The rallies were held in response to the shooting of Terence Crutcher, a black Tulsan killed earlier this month during an encounter with police. Crutcher was unarmed, but Betty Shelby, the officer who shot him, said she feared for her life when she pulled the trigger because Crutcher was allegedly reaching inside his vehicle.
Shelby was charged last week with first-degree manslaughter, and faces a possible prison sentence of four years-to-life.
Many felt like the blame for the Crutcher shooting, and other shootings like it, stemmed from a sense of disrespect for authority. Others didn’t want to comment about the Crutcher case, but rather just wanted to let officers nationwide know that they supported them.
So here are portraits of those who attended today’s rallies, and the thoughts they wanted to share.
Phil Layman traveled to the courthouse from Claremore for Tuesday’s rally. The shirt he wore listed the names of “officers violently killed in the line of duty” during the first seven months of this year.
“I think people have lost their respect for the police officer. If someone tells you to stop, you’re supposed to stop. I don’t know where society has went where we think we don’t have to obey a law officer, we can do as we please. I think it’s kind of went bad.”
Vicki Garrison, a retired teacher from Gore, attended the pro-law enforcement gathering at Hunter Park on Tuesday. She said her grandson dressed up as an officer for Halloween last year, and now the thought of him wanting to be in law enforcement worries her.
“I wanted to show support for all police officers and everything they do. My heart goes out to the Crutcher family, you know their normal has been snatched away from them just in a heartbeat. But you just wish things could have turned out very differently. But it doesn’t necessarily mean the police officer is to blame. They put their lives on the line every day when they go to work and they may be a mugshot at the end of the day.”
Amanda Miller, who is part of a group called ‘Law Enforcement and Supporters for Media Accountability,’ hosted Tuesday’s rally outside the courthouse.
“If Betty Shelby is guilty of a crime, the justice system is the entity that will take care of that. Most people do not understand, a lot of officers also want reform, but by hosting things where you’re screaming and causing problems (and) division in your community, you’re not going to get that dialog. So that’s what we’re here for today. We want to say ‘Tulsa Police, we have your back.’ We understand these officers are not Betty Shelby … the rest of the officers are still out there fighting for our lives and defending our families, and they need our support. With the media climate lately, they haven’t had much support.”
Lori Adams attended the courthouse rally with a sign offering support to officers and their families. She said she didn’t have any law enforcement officers in her family, but attended the rally to show support.
“I think the relationship between community and police is somewhat tense, but I also think it’s compounded with criminals and those who don’t follow instructions. So if you’re a criminal and you do not follow instructions when you’re stopped, bad consequences are going to happen. If you follow the law and do what they ask, then things will be fine.”
Jo Gotcher attended the gathering at Hunter Park wearing a t-shirt created by one of her favorite law enforcement officers, Deputy Bryan Woodard, out of Dallas County. She said Woodard records himself on Facebook during the beginning of every shift, and his motto is “I refuse to see hate live, while love dies.”
“This world is full of hate. There comes a time when we have to turn around and love one another and pray for each other. If just everybody would just do one kind thing for somebody a day, and they passed it on, we would have much more love in this world … we have lost our concept of ‘yes sir,’ ‘no sir.’ We’ve lost our concept of prayer … we need to stop showing the negative, let’s show the positive in this world.”
Julia Clayton came to Tulsa on Tuesday and said she felt police officers were being unfairly criticized for the recently publicized shootings.
“I’m thinking there are certain vectors that have blown things so out of proportion and making something out of them that they’re not. It all comes down to people that are thought to maybe have been acting suspicious or committing a crime, and they get pulled over by police. This isn’t about the police going out and hunting down people to persecute … we’re losing a lot of the progress we’ve made over the years because a lot of the media is choosing to show just certain things. Everybody of every race and color commits crimes. Everybody of every race and color is on the police department. If you don’t want to get in trouble, don’t commit a crime.”