In The Know: Oklahomans protest racism, police brutality; Tulsa Race Massacre commemorated; and more

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

State obligated to address systemic racism through legislative action: The session began with high hopes for cash bail reform, fines and fees reform, empowering citizen juries, reform of sentencing for second or subsequent offenses, probation reform, “possession with intent” reform, and others. In the end, none of the bills were considered a priority to be considered in the shortened 2020 session. The fact that criminal justice reform is not happening matters. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

Legacy of racism spotlighted as protests continued in Oklahoma: Thousands of Oklahomans marched Sunday in the state’s two largest cities, decrying police brutality with demonstrations that shutdown a freeway in Tulsa and filled the state Capitol grounds in Oklahoma City. [The Frontier]  

  • ‘It’s more than just George’: Wave of national unrest reaches Oklahoma [The Frontier
  • ‘Their emotion is involved’: People protest police in OKC on Saturday [NonDoc]
  • Thousands voice their concerns at weekend protests in OKC [The Oklahoman]
  • Police make 27 arrests Saturday in OKC during protest [The Oklahoman
  • Recap: Live coverage of the May 30-31 George Floyd protest in Oklahoma City [The Oklahoman]
  • Tulsans protest Saturday in response to Minnesota police violence [Tulsa World]
  • Hundreds gather in Tulsa on Saturday to protest police brutality 99-years after Race Massacre [Black Wall Street Times]
  • Protesters at OKC rally on Sunday say it’s time for change [The Oklahoman]
  • OKC minister: George Floyd death another ‘brutal, heartbreaking reminder’ [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma City police, protesters clash for second night [The Oklahoman]
  • Pickup rolls through Tulsa protesters gathered on Interstate 244 [Tulsa World]
  • Protest updates: Police deploy tear gas, pepper balls for 2nd time as protesters continue marching in Brookside on Sunday evening [Tulsa World]
  • Pastor who helped lead Saturday’s protest issues statement in response to Mayor G.T. Bynum [Tulsa World]
  • After a night of clashes, calmer scenes mark a Sunday protest in OKC [Oklahoma Watch]
  • Muskogee demonstrators chant and carry signs in ‘Black Lives Matter’ gatherings [Muskogee Phoenix]
  • Peaceful protest held in Ardmore over in-custody death of George Floyd [KXII] [Daily Ardmoreite]
  • Gov. Stitt on protests: ‘Let’s demonstrate the Oklahoma Standard … by uniting … and being respectful’ [Tulsa World]
  • Gov. Stitt says state supports both right to protest, local law enforcement [The Oklahoman]
  • Column: After all these deaths, I’m worried about the safety of my 12-year-old nephew [Opinion / Tulsa World]
  • Column: Riots are the evil fruit of America’s systemic racism [Opinion / Enid News & Eagle]
  • Editorial: The agents of change [Stillwater News Press]
  • Editorial: After protests, Oklahoma can meet this challenge [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma scraps plan to expand Medicaid on July 1: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s administration is scrapping a plan to expand Medicaid on July 1, citing a lack of state funding. The state’s Medicaid Director Melody Anthony notified the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in a letter Thursday that the state was withdrawing its proposal. The Stitt administration pushed for the expansion in March, but after the Legislature narrowly passed bills to help pay for the state’s share, including one that increased a fee that hospitals pay, Stitt vetoed them. [AP News] It appears Oklahomans voting on State Question 802 will get to decide whether the state expands Medicaid access for those without health insurance, after Gov. Stitt surprised the Legislature and vetoed a funding package for his own plan to expand the system. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

  • Grassroots advocacy group converge on Guthrie Green in support of State Question 802 ahead of June 30 election [Tulsa World]
  • Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin: Why I support SQ 802 [Opinion / CNHI]

Oklahoma sees 88 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths: State has had at least 6,506 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 334 deaths linked to the disease caused by the new coronavirus. [AP News] Visit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma.

Tulsa Race Massacre Remembered

The 99th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre was commemorated, which brought national attention in light of nationwide protests about racism in America. Below are articles from the Tulsa World and publications from around the nation.  

Tulsa World 

Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission

National Media

  • Human Rights Watch calls for Tulsa Race Massacre reparations a century after violence [Washington Post
  • 99 Years Later: Black Wall Street’s legacy of resilience [Colorlines]
  • 99 years ago today, one of America’s worst acts of racial violence took place in Tulsa. It was covered up for decades. [Vox]
  • The Oklahoma Eagle newspaper has never forgotten the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre — and its fight continues [Los Angeles Times]
  • Unearthing the true toll of the Tulsa Race Massacre [Sapiens]
  • Black Wall Street and the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, explained [Teen Vogue]
  • On the 99th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, America still has a long way to go [Essence]

State Government News

State and two largest cities moving to final reopening phase: Oklahoma businesses and other organizations can take the next steps toward resuming normal activity on Monday as the state continues to meet benchmarks for reopening amid the pandemic. [The Oklahoman] Oklahoma is poised for its third stage of reopening on Monday during which employers can resume unrestricted staffing of work sites. [Tulsa World] ‘Everyone doing their part’: Tulsa ready for Phase 3 of state’s COVID-19 reopening, leaders say [Tulsa World] Governor won’t ask lawmakers to extend his unprecedented emergency powers for another month.[CNHI]

Stitt seeks clarification from judge in gaming dispute to determine whether he can amend compact agreement: Gov. Kevin Stitt has asked a federal judge to rule that he has the power to let tribes offer games not authorized by state law. He has asked the judge to put mediation in an ongoing legal dispute over tribal gaming compacts on hold pending the outcome of his request. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter and legislative leaders said Stitt did not have that power. [Tulsa World] The governor said the issue regarding the extent of his authority needs to be resolved before he can continue with good faith negotiations. [The Oklahoman]

Capitol Insider: Oklahoma Legislature adjourns sine die (audio): KGOU’s Dick Pryor and eCapitol’s Shawn Ashley look back at the session that will always be defined by COVID-19. [KGOU]

Editorial: Stitt’s veto losses show there’s still room for healthy debate at the state Capitol: From a political perspective, the veto tally looks like an embarrassment for a Republican governor with an overwhelmingly Republican Legislature, but we see signs of civic health in those public struggles. There’s still room for spirited debate and open conflict in our state government, as there always should be in a healthy republic. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Lankford: Republicans not discussing another major relief package: Senate Republicans are more focused on tweaking aid programs already approved than passing another “big, giant spending package,” Sen. James Lankford said this week. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Point of View: Why Oklahoma needs SQ 805: We have an incarceration crisis, Oklahoma. We keep imposing long, harsh sentences for nonviolent offenses, and we continue to pay for our obsession with incarceration. Study after study has shown that more time in prison doesn’t create a safer city or state. And yet, we currently allow decades to be added to nonviolent offenders’ sentences. This practice is called sentence enhancement, and it’s crushing our schools, communities and families. [Op-Ed / The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma prisons to reopen to visitors: State prisons in Oklahoma will reopen for inmate visitation starting next weekend, but with precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. [AP News] Facilities will host two-hour visitation sessions on multiple days of the week to be determined later. To accommodate social distancing, visitors must stay in their vehicle until their session, wear a facility-provided facemask while on the grounds and pass a temperature test. [Tulsa World]

Tulsa Chief of Police Wendell Franklin will be the guest on the Tulsa World’s next virtual town hall: Among topics expected to be discussed will be challenges faced by law enforcement during the COVID-19 pandemic. [Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

Tulsa braces for possible wave of evictions as courtrooms reopen after COVID-19 shutdown: With one of the highest eviction rates in the country before the coronavirus pandemic, Tulsa County will begin hearing cases again Monday, while nonprofit groups also launch new efforts to help tenants stay in their homes. Eviction dockets will resume for the first time since March. [Tulsa World] Evictions are resuming across the state as thousands still struggle to pay rent. [KOCO] OK Policy: Reopening Oklahoma’s courts must be done thoughtfully to avoid a public health disaster.

Education News

State budget cuts put Oklahoma’s higher education funding back in the 20th century: COVID-19 cuts to colleges have led to a state appropriation that’s lower than it was in 2000. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

State Regents prep to hear requests on tuition and fees: The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education heard remarks today via video conference from leaders of higher education institutions about guidelines to consider when approving or disapproving changes to tuition and fees next month. [NonDoc]

Tulsa Public Schools launches Team Tulsa Learning Hub resource to provide professional learning opportunities remotely: The Team Tulsa Learning Hub is an online knowledge management platform featuring district technical support tools and ongoing services to help employees continue their professional learning from home. [Tulsa World]

Health News

Tribes to receive $68 million to combat COVID-19: More than $68.7 million in federal funding is being sent to Oklahoma tribal hospitals, clinics and urban health centers to assist in coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma municipalities and counties offered grants to combat opioid addiction: Nearly $23 million in grant money is being offered to Oklahoma municipalities and counties to help combat opioid addiction, state lawmakers announced Friday. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma looking to implement ongoing coronavirus testing in nursing homes: Health experts and nursing home advocates say the only way to keep the coronavirus from spreading in long-term care facilities is through ongoing testing of residents and staff. [The Frontier]

Mangum mayor tells Congress about COVID-19 struggles: The mayor said Mangum, with roughly one-third of its population 65 or older, was “hit hard” by the pandemic, which affected more than half of residents of a local nursing home. The town’s small, 18-bed critical-access hospital is now the primary care facility serving six counties.  She said assistance from the federal government would provide relief to rural hospitals. [Journal Record]

General News

GOP congressional hopefuls: Tough conversations needed on race: Republicans vying to run for the Oklahoma City-area congressional seat said Americans need to have “tough conversations” about race and start treating each other with respect. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Historical Society’s Bob Blackburn reflects on a career studying the state: ‘It is just my nature’: On Jan. 15, Bob Blackburn will step down as executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, but he plans to still play a role in sharing the state’s rich history. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“Today if you look at these crowds you will find out that we love our community and we are going to stand and continue to demand justice and keep the pressure on until we see the change that needs to be here.”

-Sheri Dickerson with Black Lives Matter Oklahoma City about Sunday’s rally, which organizers described as a message to city leaders for systemic change to local policing practices. [The Frontier]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Americans who think the United States hasn’t gone far enough in giving Black people equal rights with whites. The percentage of Black respondents who felt that way was 78 percent compared with 48 percent for Latino respondents and 37 percent for white respondents. [Source: Pew Research]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Case for Reparations in Tulsa, Oklahoma: A Human Rights Argument: After decades of silence, an enormous amount has been written in recent years about the Tulsa massacre and its aftermath, including many books, and a comprehensive 200-page report, known as the “Tulsa Race Riot Report,” issued by the “Tulsa Race Riot Commission” in 2001. Yet the state and local governments involved have failed to take action. In the run-up to the massacre’s centennial, the Tulsa and Oklahoma governments should finally take meaningful steps to repair these ongoing, devastating wrongs. [Human Rights Watch] Note: OK Policy’s work was referenced in this report. 

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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