By almost any measure, 2020 wasn’t a very enjoyable 365-day trip around the sun.
Even in the best of times, election years often bring with them strife, anger and tumult. To no one’s surprise, this year fit the bill. If the pandemic didn’t put a perfectly weird and deadly spin on 2020, the presidential election surely did, as wide swaths of the American populace refused to accept the outcome.
In Oklahoma, the election went relatively smoothly, and Republicans continued to dominate most races. The state also suffered through a brutal late-fall ice storm, and some voters in Norman tried to recall their mayor.
Here’s a look back at some of our non-COVID-19-related news stories that happened during a year most people would like to forget. Click on the arrow buttons below to slide between stories, and click on the subheadings to read full articles.
George Floyd’s brutal death at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis had a far-reaching impact on the nation as summer began. Floyd’s death inspired protests in every major city in America, with participants calling for dramatic reform of police practices and even reductions in funding to some. Oklahoma City was no different. The city saw several days of protests, some of which turned violent and led to arrests, but were mostly peaceful.
What had been billed as a kind of MAGA Woodstock turned into a campaign optics debacle for outgoing President Donald Trump, who staged a June in-person indoor rally amid a pandemic in Tulsa. The rally was expected to pack Tulsa’s BOK Center with more than 20,000 people, with potentially tens of thousands waiting to get in outside. In the end, only about 6,000 people showed up. Making matters worse, Herman Cain, one of the rally’s attendees, died from COVID-19 about a month after he attended sans mask.
In the wake of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s deaths, police reform — including reducing budgets or redirecting police budgets to other areas of city government — became hot button issues across the country.
The Norman City Council did not cut its police force budget, but it did redirect some funds that previously had been intended for an increase. That ignited a firestorm in the rapidly growing college town. A group called Unite Norman was founded with the aim of recalling Norman Mayor Breea Clark and several City Council members. Ultimately, the effort failed to recall Clark, and succeeded in forcing a recall vote for just one council member.
A district judge later sided with the Norman FOP in its lawsuit against the city for redirecting the funds. The judge ruled that the funding vote had violated the state’s law about open meetings.
One of the state’s most notorious companies filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July. The company, founded in part by the late Aubrey McClendon, had been mired in trouble ranging from extreme debt loads to depressed energy prices, for years. In September, the company laid off hundreds of workers.
A late-fall ice storm coupled with leaves still on most trees created a messy disaster for thousands of Oklahomans in October. The storm knocked out electricity for much of central Oklahoma, with some customers being without power for more than a week. Thousands of out-of-state utility workers were called in to help with repairs to the state’s power grid.
— The Black Times OK (@TheBlackTimesOK) December 11, 2020
In late November, Oklahoma City police shot and killed 15-year-old Stavian Rodriguez, who they say attempted to rob a gas station with a handgun. He was shot outside the gas station by at least five officers who said he made “furitive” moves toward a weapon. Video captured by KOCO appears to show Rodriguez drop his weapon and move his left hand to his hip seconds before he was shot.
In December, police shot and killed 60-year-old Bennie Edwards after they say he ignored commands to drop a knife. Edwards, who suffered from mental illness, initially approached an officer with the knife before changing direction and attempting to flee when he was shot.
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater has said he will review the officers’ actions in both cases and is waiting to receive completed investigations into the killings. Tuesday, however, he charged a 17-year-old with murder for acting as an accomplice in Rodriguez’s attempted robbery. The filing has drawn criticism from the public.
Former Wetumka Mayor James Jackson often said he doesn’t “kiss babies or kiss butt.”
Unfortunately for Jackson, that comment took on an “irony is dead” motif when Jackson was arrested March 26. Jackson, who came to Oklahoma from Illinois, faces seven charges in Oklahoma including two counts of lewd or indecent acts to a child under the age of 16.
Jackson also faces two counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a minor in Illinois.
The March arrest capped a bizarre tenure for Jackson as mayor of the Hughes County town that included threats and resignations within the city’s government.