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In the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing, many American and soon worldwide citizens would protest like never before. The raw footage of Floyd’s murder compelled those who were silent before to now join their voices as one.
In the heat of it all, protests were the language of love, despair, unity, and unfortunately – violence.
As the father of multi-racial kids, Tulsa’s Thomas Knight says he felt compelled to attend a BLM rally on May 31, 2020.
Yet it would be a day he’ll never forget.
Knight marched alongside others rallying for reforms. And all was going according to plan until things changed in an instant. In the midst of a sudden crowd surge, Knight claims he was knocked off an overpass and fell 20-feet below, resulting in his partial paralysis.
Having survived the fall, Knight is now suing the city of Tulsa, the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety (ODPS). Knight is also filing suit against ODPS employees and a driver, who was not identified, seen driving into the crowd.
Filed on Feb. 14, the lawsuit blames his fall on the “deliberate indifference” and negligence of those agencies.
How did this happen?
Knight “was exercising his constitutional right of free speech and assembly, in furtherance of his civic duty to create a better world for his family, his children, for everyone,” his attorneys wrote in the lawsuit. “Now he will never be able to stand up and walk for change.”
Ever since the 2017 Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally in which Heather Heyer lost her life, vehicles and protests have become synonymous in one capacity or another. Even this month, right-winged Canadians used their 18-wheelers to blockade and protest their nation’s COVID-19 policies.
What happens when a car becomes a weapon? Could it not be turned around? Don’t the police see the trend in car-related incidents at protests? Isn’t there a responsibility to protect the First Amendment rights of the protestors?
So many questions. Thomas Knight and his attorneys want those answers.
Protesting Social Justice, now Mr. Knight needs justice.
Knight’s lawsuit alleges, “His injuries were eminently preventable and should never have happened.”
“Had the (city and state highway patrol) taken even the most basic of precautions, (Knight) would not have lost the use of his legs and his suffering, and his family’s suffering, could have been spared.”
The City of Tulsa and the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety stated they do not comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit says Knight was one of thousands who attended the rally which planned to travel through John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park near Interstate 244.
According to the lawsuit, rallygoers approached the park and Tulsa police officers funneled them onto the interstate’s access ramp. “Rallygoers eventually spilled out onto the westbound lane of travel on I-244,” it says, and Oklahoma Highway Patrol was called to stop interstate traffic and protect the attendees and vehicles.
Video from KJRH shows hundreds of protestors on the overpass as vehicle traffic begins to backup. The suit claims OHP troopers allowed a trailer-hauling pickup truck to pass through the barricade and drive through the rallygoers.
“While John Doe Driver was attempting to drive through the Rally, he brandished a gun to intimidate the Rallygoers.”
The driver yelled, “you get out of my way” before driving “through and over people,” says the lawsuit.
At that time, Knight says the crowd surge pushed him off the overpass and onto the city street below. He broke multiple bones and remains “paralyzed from the waist down,” requiring a wheelchair for mobility. Knight seeks at least $75,000 to cover his injury, medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other damages.
While protests are a chance to unite, those sworn to protect and serve along with city leadership have a responsibility to protect its citizenry from the ill intent of evildoers.