Sixteen-year-old Lirey Munoz, a soon-to-be-senior at Norman High School, organized this rally to protest racial injustice and the death of George Floyd, a black man who died at the knee of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. The protesters met in the Sooner Mall parking lot and began marching soon after to the Main Street bridge overlooking Interstate 35.
“I saw everybody posting on social media about it, and I knew that if no one was going to do anything about it, then I will,” Munoz said. “I am protesting the injustice that black people face every day. We need to do more than just post about it; we need to do something about it.”
Munoz said that the cops who have contributed to the unjust killings of unarmed black men need to be arrested, and for the police to listen to those rallying because they know what needs to be done.
Everyone began to line the sidewalk facing Main Street, holding up signs and shouting chants such as, “No justice … No peace … No racist… Police,” “Black lives matter” and “Say his name … George Floyd.”
“We are here to protest the wrong that has been going on,” Norman resident Batista Henderson said. “We believe that our lives matter just as much as everybody else's lives matter. It is so wonderful seeing the community come together out here; blacks, whites, hispanics and everybody else. I have a son and a daughter, and we are just as equal as anybody else, we should be able to drive our cars and not fear being stopped and pulled over and receiving terrible things just because of the color of our skin.”
While standing on the bridge, protesters gave people the opportunity to share their story and how they feel.
“Y’all, I am tired, I am tired of all of this,” one protester said. “This has gone on for too long. If you don't see the issue, that’s the issue. I’m tired being followed around the store like I’m about to steal something; I’m tired being scared when a cop comes up behind me when I’m doing absolutely nothing wrong. I’m tired of fearing for my own brother's life. There should be no reason you should be scared because of something you were born with.”
Demanding justice, protesters began to march to the police station from the Main Street bridge, which is approximately a 3-mile walk.
As they were walking, Norman police blocked intersections and directed traffic to keep the protesters safe. The Norman Police Department was able to speak with the organizer of the protest before it started.
“That was extremely important,” Norman Police Chief Kevin Foster said. “It was nice to work things out so we don’t get anybody injured; either in traffic trying to come here or because of any type of counterprotest.”
Once at the police station, the protesters laid on the ground with their hands behind their back chanting, “I can’t breathe.” Those words which were uttered multiple times by George Floyd as the police officer had his knee on his neck.
They then got up and began to circle around each other, passing the bullhorn to other speakers. The community also showed up, filling the lawn in front of the police station and the parking lot adjacent to it.
A Norman police sergeant joined the middle of the circle and chanted “Black lives matter,” into the bullhorn, which made the crowd erupt with cheers and applause.
Members from the city government also showed up to the police station to show their support.
“I think it’s important for people to be able to express their feelings with everything going on,” Norman Mayor Breea Clark said. “I’m tired that we still have to have events like this, and I’m sorry I couldn’t have been here earlier.”
Mayor Clark said that she believes things need to change not only within the city, but in the nation as well.
“I’m doing my part with the form of government we have, but it’s never going to be enough,” Mayor Clark said. “And that’s the frustrating part. I’m tired of having to apologize for all of these things; we have to change as a nation and I am so proud of all of these young people here right now speaking their truth and sharing their voices. We just need to listen; that’s the missing part.”
Mayor Clark also mentioned that Norman will be hiring a diversity and equity officer and that the city also is joining the Government Alliance for Race and Equity.
Mayor Clark ended her speech by chanting, “Black lives matter,” and all the protesters joined in with her.
The protesters peacefully dispersed from the police station at around 5:15 p.m.