Occupy the Corners OKC

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America is at a boiling point when it comes to issues of police and community violence. Law enforcement nation-wide are beginning to make changes towards increased transparency and stronger community relations. While much discussion has been centered around police reform, communities are recognizing the need to heal from within.

PREVENTING BALTIMORE IN OKLAHOMA CITY

In Oklahoma City, violent crimes plague the communities and create tension for the police. With crime rates well above the national average, residents of OKC are recognizing the need for change.

Violence in OKC

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Milton Combs, founder of the PEOPLE Foundation, has worked with the OKC chapter of the NAACP and the police’s Citizen Advisory Board towards ending violence in the city. He says that Oklahoma City communities will need to be proactive in changing their neighborhoods.

CEO of the PEOPLE Foundation

Milton Combs, CEO of the PEOPLE Foundation

“By doing forums. By having neighborhood meetings…By having the kinds of events where citizens can vent and they can also learn about what’s going on in their town to help police-community relations and then asking them to step up to the plate.”

This year, Combs and other community leaders have been involved in several such events. Back in March, the Oklahoma City NAACP and the non-profit, Ending Violence Everywhere, partnered with Oklahoma City police in their first ever Police and Community Trust Forum. The dialogue led to further discussions on how the community can work to decreasing crime.

Oklahoma City’s Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr. is starting a campaign modeled after Al Sharpton and the National Action Network’s “Occupy the Corners” project.

In the shadow of the state capitol, the neighborhood around NE 23rd and MLK suffers greatly from the violence Rev. Jackson and others rally against.

POLICE RESPOND TO FATAL SHOOTING IN NE OKLAHOMA CITY

MAN DEAD AFTER NORTHEAST OKC SHOOTING

On June 13th, nearly two dozen community leaders and residents met on the high-traffic, high-crime corner to advocate an end to gun violence.

Participants included pastors, non-profit organization leaders, NAACP members, and concerned residents. Speakers shared on the issues of violence in the community, how citizens can hold police accountable, and the need for deeper involvement. Rev. Jackson said this is all about doing the right thing.

“Our elderly people in our community deserve to feel safe. Our young people deserve to feel safe. We deserve to reclaim our neighborhoods as what they were, as what we remember.”

Looking forward, Rev. Jackson hopes support for “Occupy the Corners OKC” will grow. His ambition is to have multiple simultaneous rallies throughout Oklahoma City’s problem neighborhoods and begin a door-to-door outreach with their message.

“We’re here spreading love. We’re here saying that our lives matter. That your life has worth and that we need one another. We are the keepers of our brothers and sisters.”

10 Commandments’ Future Remains Unclear

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24176535_SAThe future of a controversial Oklahoma monument continues to be debated. Oklahoma Rep. Mike Ritze sponsored a bill in 2009 to have a 10 commandments display installed on the State Capitol’s grounds. His family privately funded the memorial, which was finally erected in November of 2012.

Rep. Mike Ritze speaks about newly installed 10 commandments monument

Despite Oklahoma being firmly in the Bible belt, the display has received numerous complaints. Organizations like American Civil Liberties Union and American Atheists have filed lawsuits in response to the placement of the memorial. The ACLU states in their petition they, “declare the placement of the Ten Commandments Monument to be in violation of the Oklahoma Constitution, and as such, an illegal appropriation of public property in support of religion.”

ACLU files suit to remove 10 commandments monument

In addition, various religious organizations have sought equality by having monuments erected representing their beliefs. A New York Satanist group known as the Satanic Temple has crowd funded and lobbied for their own statue to be installed. Similarly, the Universal Society of Hinduism applied for the installment of a Hindu god monument.

Satanist group unveils design for Oklahoma State capitol monument

Hindu organization applies for memorial to be built Oklahoma State capitol grounds

The controversy over the 10 commandments and religious monuments has sparked discussion over the separation of faith and the State. An Oklahoma district judge dismissed the ACLU’s lawsuit that the display was unconstitutional. The ACLU disagrees with the ruling. The organization is now taking their appeal to Oklahoma’s Supreme Court.

While the debate surrounding the 10 commandments monument still stands, the statue does not. Last month, the memorial was dramatically destroyed in a bizarre act of vandalism.

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