WASHINGTON — Thirteen members of the Black Lives Matter OKC chapter called for clemency of Oklahoma death row inmate Julius Jones while joining others marching to protest police brutality and racial injustice along the National Mall on Friday.
Fifty-seven years after the Rev. Martin Luther King delivered his “I have a dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial, tens of thousands again gathered in front of Lincoln protesting police brutality and racial inequality — protests that have seen increased support since the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died earlier this summer under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer.
This story was reported by Gaylord News, a Washington reporting project of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma.
Protests have also surged in the past week after another Black man, Jacob Blake, was shot multiple times in the back by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Friday’s march was organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton, who delivered the headline speech at the six-hour part revival meeting, part protest.
“We have seen nationally and internationally an outrage of those that understand that, when Black lives rise, we all do,” said Rev. T. Sheri Dickerson, executive director of Oklahoma City’s chapter of Black Lives Matter. “We are losing more and more Black persons to the issues of police brutality, white supremacy, racial inequities and state-sanctioned violence.”
Miles Francisco, an organizer with Black Lives Matter and co-founder of OU’s Black Emergency Response Team, attended the march and said solutions to oppressive systems and institutions must be multi-faceted.
Since graduating from OU earlier this year, Francisco has invested more time and effort into his organization, Foundation for Liberating Minds, which seeks to expand education, both K-12 and higher, as a transformative “anti-oppressive tool and framework.”
“We also have to look at how the ways the ‘school,’ in and of itself, has a deep resemblance of the prison,” Francisco said, referring to Jones, who was an honor student on the verge of a basketball scholarship. “And when we think about the school-to-prison pipeline, it places the school as this sort of angelic, net positive figure, when in reality it gets kids ready to be put into a larger beast of the prison-industrial complex.”
In 2002, Jones, a former OU engineering freshman and high school basketball star, was convicted of the 1999 murder of Edmond businessman Paul Howell and sentenced to death. After many legal and judicial efforts to fight the death penalty, Jones filed for clemency in 2019.
Jones’ case has drawn national attention, and various advocates — from celebrities such as Kim Kardashian West and Blake Griffin to criminal justice reformers such as Marc Howard and T. Sheri Dickerson — have supported his clemency application.
However, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said during a news conference in July that a “profusion of misinformation” has resulted in an orchestrated effort to get Jones off of death row.
Family members attend Washington march
Among the thousands of participants in Friday’s anniversary march on Washington were the families of those who lost loved ones in high-profile police killings over the years, including the families of Floyd, Blake, Breonna Taylor and Eric Garner.
Oklahoma members of Black Lives Matter met those families and discussed how to move forward.
“As long as people are taking actions and steps, day by day, within themselves and within their community, to make a difference and to make a change (…) that’s when those real, larger structural changes actually begin to happen,” Francisco said.