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Protest outside city hall, Tulsa, 2016 (National Action Network)

Published 04/14/2019

By: BWST Staff

TULSA, OK – “While this man sat calmly at a table with both hands visible, the officer picked him up and slammed him face first into the ground. His head and mouth were bleeding, my kids started screaming, I could not believe what had just happened…”

A public Facebook post on Saturday morning gave an eyewitness account of police use of force at Fat Guys Burgers in the historic Greenwood District.

The author of the post, Lara Foley, described an incident where a customer at the bar/restaurant, a Black man, who was intoxicated, was asked to leave. As the customer called for his brother, a prominent local business owner, to come pick him up, the restaurant called the police. When police arrived, Foley says one of the officers “picked him up and slammed him face first into the ground”.  The man, according to Foley, was not resisting and was sitting calmly when this happened.

The use of force immediately injured the man, according to Foley, who was bleeding from his mouth and head.

In an interview with The Black Wall Street Times, Vaun, a manager of Fat Guy’s restaurant on Greenwood, recalled the man who was arrested “yelling obscenities” at nearby patrons.  He called police to have the man removed, but says he wouldn’t have done so if he knew the man’s brother was on the way.

Foley’s partner, who is white, went outside to speak with officers in order to explain to them what happened as they detained the man who was slammed to the ground in the restaurant.  The manager noted that the situation outside escalated and the police threatened Foley’s partner with arrest for obstruction of justice, according to Foley’s post.

The manager of Fat Guys told the Times that he wants to issue an apology to the man arrested.

“I don’t like the way things were handled,” he said.

When asked to elaborate, he stated that, while he could understand why the officers would forcibly remove the man, he thought that “the force police used as a little extreme”.

This incident comes on the heels of another similar encounter with Tulsa Police Officers, this time involving a former official in the Mayor’s Office.

Arielle Davis, who until recently worked in the city’s Office of Resilience and Equity, was returning from dinner with her fiancé late last month when she saw two young Black boys she described as “eleven or twelve years old” handcuffed on the side of the road with three white officers standing around them.

Davis spoke with a group of the boys’ friends who were standing across the street crying. “These kids were clearly traumatized by what was happening,” said Davis.

She asked one of the young girls what happened.  The girl told Davis that a “white woman called the cops on them because she thought they stole her son’s bike”.  Davis recalled that the girl stated that the woman “yelled at them”, calling one of the children a “fat bitch” and allegedly “threatened them with a bat”.

Davis noted that the adult white woman was not in handcuffs alongside the two young, Black boys.  Instead, in the video, she can be seen standing right behind both of the boys.

When Davis learned that the police hadn’t yet called the boys’ parents, she went across the street to speak with officers.

She gave her name and stated that she was “a former employee of the Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Equity”.  At this point, one of the officers demanded that Davis go back across the street. When Davis declined and informed the officer she was standing on public property, an acceptable distance from the boys, the officer threatened Davis with arrest for obstruction of justice.

Davis recalls the officer pointing to a Black man sitting on the sidewalk in handcuffs, whom she claimed to have detained for obstruction because he had come to check on the boys as well.  Davis then told the Times that the officer then looked at her and joked they had “an extra pair of handcuffs” on her.

At this point, Davis then began filming the incident on her cell phone while crossing back to the other side of the street and attempting to reassure the boys they they would be alright.

Eventually, the boys and the other gentleman who attempted to intervene were all released from their handcuffs.  Davis noted that the officers chose to write the man with “a citation for failing to neuter his dog”.

In a video of the incident, one of the officers then turns to Davis and says “ma’am, you’re standing in the street again. Would you like me to issue you a citation for it since you want me to enforce all the laws?”

Davis told the Times that she filed an official complaint with the Tulsa Police Department immediately following the incident.

Both of these events come as the city council prepares to engage in Public Hearings into the racial disparities around policing as evidenced in the Tulsa Equality Indicators, even as some continue to deny the validity of the indicators themselves.  Last week, a campaign calling itself “Demanding a Just Tulsa” sent a letter to the city council and the mayor calling for strengthened hearings, including more opportunities for public comment and clear pathways toward policy reform.

Davis, who worked with the 2018 Equality Indicators Report during her time at city hall, said that in light of these incidents, she hopes public officials begin to understand that “there are real people behind these numbers.  It’s more than just data, it’s people’s lives.”

Davis said that elected leaders have a duty to ensure that all Tulsa citizens “feel safe, are safe, have a voice and that their voice has an ear and an audience that listens and acts when that voice says ‘I’m being treated unjustly’.”

Editor’s note: this article has been updated to include comments from the manager of Fat Guy’s burgers on Greenwood.  It has also been edited to include the name of the witness who wrote the post, Lara Foley, after gaining her permission to do so.

The Black Wall Street Times is a news publication located in Tulsa, Okla. and Atlanta, Ga. At The BWSTimes, we focus on elevating the stories of our beloved Greenwood community, elevating the stories of...