Okla. Co. Commissioners Meeting Disrupted By Protesters

Wednesday, August 12th 2020, 5:54 pm

Protesters interrupted an Oklahoma County Commission meeting Wednesday morning, leading to the arrest of one activist.

The board was set to consider an ordinance regulating protest activities on county property. 

Shortly after the meeting began, activist Jess Eddy approached District Attorney David Prater, allegedly calling him a profanity filled name. 

"What did you say?" Prater asked. Eddy repeated the phrase. "You're going to start that?" Prater said to Eddy. "He needs to leave," Prater told sheriff deputies.

Eddy then yelled at commissioners calling them "fascists." 

According to the sheriff's department, Eddy was arrested for "willfully disturbing, interfering with or disrupting state business, agency operations, or employees."

"People are out here fighting for their lives every day," Activist Mark Faulk said. "We as white activist get arrested for protesting, but people of color have to worry about dying if they go to the convenience store."

County Commissioners voted to push a vote on the free speech ordinance to a meeting Friday before the interruptions.

Less than three hours after protesters left the meeting and began rallying and blocking traffic in front of the courthouse, Court Clerk Rick Warren announced he had withdrawn the proposed ordinance. However, county commissioners said the proposal is still on the agenda for Friday.

Among other things, the ordinance prohibits free speech taking place on county property that is within 25 feet of an entrance, interferers with pedestrian or vehicle traffic, uses amplified sound like a bull horn, speaker or drums, or if protests cause "excessive noise" disrupting court proceedings. 

"I hear them outside my window and I'm on the ninth floor, so if I can hear them all the way up nine stories, that certainly effects every courtroom," Commissioner Brian Maughn said.

Supporters of the proposal said the regulations are needed to keep court proceedings moving and to protect jurors. They said disrupting protests infringe on litigants' right to a speedy trial, although Maughn said he didn't have a recent example of when that had occurred.

"You're down to almost the point of rendering a verdict, and then the stunt or whatever could be concocted to throw it all into a mistrial," Maugh said. "That would waste everybody's time in that process."

People opposed to the proposal say peaceful protests - even loud peaceful protests - are protected under the first amendment.