In the wake of George Floyd’s death last week, thousands of protestors took to the streets of Oklahoma City Sunday night to voice their frustration with acts of police violence against black Americans. With the influx of protestors, the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office sought out assistance to help monitor the protest. Among some of the agencies offering assistance were 25 officers of the Logan County Special Response team and the Logan County Sheriff’s Office.
“We received request from the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office due to what happened Saturday night,” Logan County Sheriff Damon Devereaux said. “There’s safety in numbers. In our business, it’s better to have too many bodies than not enough. We told them if they needed people we could bring 20-25 people. In law enforcement we're all in this together. When things get volatile in one area, we go and bail each other out if we can. In the events we’ve had over the years, we rely heavily on Oklahoma County to come in and assist us. We were able to go and stand in locations to help them be as flexible as possible. That’s what we did for Oklahoma County.”
The Logan County Sheriff Special Response team arrived at the protest at 2 o’clock Sunday afternoon and assisted the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office until 1 a.m. Monday morning. Their primary responsibility was to protect the county jail, while also protecting protestors.
“Where we were stationed, the main objective for us was to ensure the integrity of the county jail and to make sure it was not breached,” Devereaux said. “Our objective was to watch the fence line and make sure no one tried to come over onto the property and gain access to the building or do any damage to the property there. We were not in the front of the building where the main stuff was going on, but as a career law enforcement guy, I’ve never heard people say things to the police that they were saying. At the end of the day, we were there to protect those protesters. I think that’s one thing that they maybe don’t understand. Our job is to not only to ensure the areas are protected but if someone starts an assault on a protester, we are to step in and make sure that protestor is protected as well. Regardless of what they’re saying to us or how they’re treating us.”
The planned Black Lives Matter march saw hundreds move from NE 36th and Kelly south toward the State Capitol where the group marched across NE 23rd Street and up to the western side of the grounds where protestors gathered on the steps of the capitol. From there many walked three more miles downtown Oklahoma City stopping outside Oklahoma County Jail. What started as a passionate but peaceful protest in Oklahoma City filled speeches and chants quickly turned into chaos as the sun went down.
“It was a peaceful demonstration until it started getting dark,” Devereaux said. “A lot of those protestors that were there early, lawfully protesting, we saw them leave when the sun went down. It was almost a change in a shift”
As night fell, the group of protestors and police had several altercations that led to Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt issuing an emergency deceleration establishing a curfew for parts of downtown Oklahoma City. Police arrested 11 people overnight. Five people were arrested on complaints of violating the Mayor’s curfew, four on complaints of disorderly conduct, one on complaints of public drunkenness, and one on a complaint of assault and battery of a police officer.
Sheriff Devereaux says officers share the sentiment that what transpired in Minneapolis in the killing of Floyd was reprehensible. He also says that officers are in favor of the protests, as long as they stay lawful.
“We were there in support of the protests and the protestors,” Devereaux said. We believe in the right to protest. We believe in what they believe as far as the actions of those officers were wrong and we’re right there with them in that and supporting that. But as soon as it gets violent and unlawful, that’s when we have issues. We’re not the bad guys here, we are here to defend those people out there. It’s disheartening to see the disrespect of people right now when we are trying to do everything we can to protect them. I understand their mad, but at the end of the day I’ll take a bullet for them.”
After making a social media posts stating he would be out assisting in the protests Sunday afternoon, Devereaux received many comments thanking him for his service. He says those comments keep him going in situations like this.
“I put a little blast about it on Facebook and the support I’ve received from people saying the they were praying for us—I can’t tell you how much those small little messages mean when were in situations like this,” Devereaux said. “We had people offering to bring us cases of water from Guthrie. People like that make what I do extremely worth it.”