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OKLAHOMA CITY — In response to the televised arrest of a Tulsa woman wearing an “I Can’t Breathe Shirt” while attending a presidential campaign rally in Tulsa, the ACLU of Oklahoma issued the following statement:
The following is attributable to Nicole McAfee, Director of Policy and Advocacy for the ACLU of Oklahoma:
“The televised arrest of a Tulsa woman, granted ticketed access to the area surrounding the BOK Center shocked and upset many viewers. Our office immediately received outreach from people on the ground in Tulsa, and across the world. We share their outrage. While Tulsa Police say they were following orders from the presidential campaign to remove Sheila Buck, and news reports indicate that request was made because of her shirt (a black t-shirt depicting the outline of a person kneeling on another’s neck with the text I Can’t Breathe), the scene was one that felt familiar to those who have encountered Tulsa Police previously or watched their aggressive response to protests over the last several weeks.
The rest of Ms. Buck’s day included several hours in custody before being booked, a misdemeanor charge that could carry up to a $500 fine and/or 1 year in jail, and a bond amount of $500 to secure her freedom. This arbitrary process is inconvenient at best, but for many Tulsans, it leads to weeks or months, sometimes years, of pre-trial incarceration, public repercussions that can include loss of job or housing or custody, and all without a trial or conviction.
While we hope people will continue to report violations of civil rights and liberties at protests today and in the future, we also hope the world watching Tulsa will acknowledge Oklahoma is second in the world in the rate of incarceration and has led the nation in per capita incarceration of Black people since 2014. Our criminal legal system is designed to punish and to thwart the efforts of people who give voice to the opposition of the status quo. It is not just, and it is not fair.
Our entire team hopes Ms. Buck is able to sleep in her own bed tonight, and that the county will see the public scrutiny and drop all charges with urgency. We know for many others, there will be no such luck.
While the President and Vice President are in Oklahoma, we continue to monitor how law enforcement engages with protesters through our civil liberties hotline, (405) 524-8511, and through footage submitted from the front lines on our mobile justice app. We are aware that the law enforcement presence on the ground in Tulsa will not only include police presence but also members of the National Guard and Secret Service. We acknowledge a militarized law enforcement presence can escalate harm or threat of harm to protesters. We continue to commit ourselves to holding law enforcement and the elected officials who direct them accountable for their actions.”