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The small city of Lawton often only receives headlines after violent police shootings or community violence, and when it comes to brutality by law enforcement, what happens in this community on the Southwest edge of Oklahoma often goes unnoticed or overlooked. Holding a peace march on Saturday, Feb. 25, outside the Comanche County Courthouse, a clutch of advocates impacted by violence hope to change that.
Mina Woods, whose unarmed son Quadry Sanders was killed by Lawton Police officers, and local community advocate Amberly Taylor came together to organize a “Stop the Violence” peace march on Saturday to build up what some have called a “broken” community. The pair told The Black Wall Street Times they want to show the community what it looks like to “unite under Christ” for a unified cause.
Residents of all ages ultimately sent a message that even a few voices can make a loud statement.
The event came days after the latest instance of traumatizing violence, in which a shooting broke out in front of Ice Tre’s Barbershop on Gore Blvd, leaving one man dead.
“It is so important because simply taking up space allows for our presence to be known. It allows for the lawmakers, police officers, judges, and public defenders to see that they have a team of citizens that will hold them accountable to the public,” organizer Amberly Taylor said in a press release ahead of the peace march.
“Our bodies marching, chanting and standing is a reminder that we see them. We will use our voice to expose them, and we will unite to elect leaders that have the same vision of peace as we do,” she added.
Peace march in Lawton seeks to build community power
Prophet Williams was killed during the Thursday shooting outside Ice Tre’s, a popular, upscale barbershop whose owner, D.J. Zackery, remains an active community and business leader in the small city of roughly 90,000 residents.
“The team at Ice Tre’s extends our deepest prayers and condolences for all effected by the tragedy,” the business said in a statement. “We have an active shooter protocol in place that was followed by our team and kept everyone inside the shop safe,
As of Monday, no one was taken into custody for the deadly shooting, according to KSWO.
Also facing justice are the officers who killed an unarmed Quadry Sanders in December 2021.
Former LPD officers Nathan Ronan and Robert Hinkle face First Degree Manslaughter charges for the killing in a city with a reputation for gunning down young, Black men with impunity.
On Dec. 5, LPD responded to a series of 911 calls coming from the 1800 block of N.W. Lincoln Ave. The calls claimed that Sanders was violating a protective order and waving a gun around at his girlfriend’s house, with whom he shares six children.
Yet, his girlfriend acknowledged that she had previously dropped the order and had asked Sanders to come over as they were in the process of getting back together, according to a report from KSWO.
Community seeks justice for Quadry Sanders
Even after complying with officers’ demands to step outside after a neighbor called police, Sanders was shot with his hands up multiple times.
The officers then dragged a bleeding, dying Quadry Sanders across the cold, hard ground before handcuffing him.
“Yes, it was an execution,” Attorney Lee Merritt told The Black Wall Street Times when asked about the shooting. Representing the family, Merritt said they won’t stop until prosecutors elevate the charge to murder and successfully prosecute former officers Ronan and Hinkle.
Mina Woods, Sanders’ mother, attended the peace march.
“Make no mistake we are also doing this rally so that no other parent has to suffer the grief we are suffering at losing our first born son at the hands of police in such a violent manner,” Woods told The Black Wall Street Times. “Those designated to protect and serve him murdered him.”
Woods said the preliminary hearings for the officers were rescheduled from December to January, then rescheduled from January to April.
Beyond justice for her son, Woods hopes Lawton’s local elected officials take notice and take action.
“The word of God says the people perish for lack of knowledge so let’s come together and implement programs that give them empowering knowledge towards success, and gives them knowledge on daily coping skills for Life stressors,” Woods said.