As Oklahoma City protestors shut down an intersection in the summer of 2020, Young Democrats of America President Joshua Harris-Till stood in front of the crowd as a car came towards them. The driver stopped and Harris-Till walked towards them, trying to reason with the driver to turn around or take an alternate route.
“I saw his knuckles tighten around the wheel. He was staring the protestors down,” Harris-Till said. “I had no idea what the intent of the driver was, but the look in his eyes.. Something told me I had to keep trying to convince him. At that moment, two officers ran over and told him to turn around. His entire demeanor changed, and he left.”
Summer 2020 protests
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, protestors took to the streets of Tulsa to demand policy change. On back-to-back days, a driver intentionally drove through the organized protests – striking and literally running over protestors. On one occasion, a driver pulling a horse trailer declined to turn around as countless other drivers had.
The driver accelerated from a full-stop and ran over protestors on the highway. One protestor fell from the overpass and is now paralyzed. The driver stopped to talk with law enforcement, still in full sight of protestors, and the highway patrol sent him on his way. Months later, all governing authorities chose to not pursue charges against the man.
Following the passage of House Bill 1674 (Oklahoma’s Hit & Run law), Harris-Till has taken formal steps to strike the law down. Harris-Till has filed and initiated a veto referendum against HB 1674. In order to bring the bill to a statewide vote of the people, Harris-Till needs to collect 59,320 signatures and raise thousands of dollars to fund the effort.
Standing in front of the Oklahoma State Capitol, a number of state leaders joined Harris-Till’s call to action. Among the speakers were Oklahoma Democratic Party Chair Alicia Andrews, former gubernatorial candidate and longtime Okla. Attorney General Drew Edmondson, Black Lives Matter – OKC Executive Director Rev. Sheri Dickerson and original “sit-iner” Ayanna Najuma of the Oklahoma Sit-Ins.
Najuma shared her shame that, in 2021, she was facing fears she would never have imagined in 1958 while she protested for civil rights with Clara Luper. “We have got to pay attention,” Najuma said. “Paying attention means, not just coming to a press conference and hearing the issues – it’s taking action.”
Effort to collect signatures begins
Edmondson said of the law, “There is no demonstrated need for it at all, but it has very serious possible unintended consequences. (Consequences) that people who are not of goodwill will see as an opportunity to disrupt and harm people who are peacefully demonstrating by claiming they are in fear.” Edmondson called the bill a “license to kill.”
The Vote No on SQ 816 coalition will begin collecting the needed signatures in coming days. They are currently waiting for the office of the Secretary of State to release the forms to Harris-Till. They will have roughly three months to collect the 59,320 signatures.