January 9, 2021
Norman, OK - The Norman Collective for Racial Justice calls for all candidates for upcoming February 9th City Council elections to pledge not to accept dark money or funds from the Fraternal Order of Police. NC4RJ agrees with late Council member David Perry’s statement that “the most powerful party in the city is the Money Party, which includes both Democrats and Republicans whose priority is preserving their own wealth and control.” Candidates should commit to being accountable to their constituents and the needs of the city at large, not to the moneyed special interests that are only accountable to business ventures and police unions, who serve and protect profits over people and are fighting to continue their bloated dominance of our municipal budget. 
NC4RJ recognizes that workers who are vulnerable to abuses of power should have the right to unionize and collectively bargain for safe working conditions and fair wages, even in a “right to work” state like Oklahoma where workers’ rights have been significantly eroded thanks to bipartisan anti-labor efforts in the State Legislature. However, the police are not like other workers. They have power that average citizens don’t: to use violence without being punished, including being legally allowed to kill people on the job. Additionally, unlike other workers, police are allowed to bargain over the content of internal disciplinary procedures. Police unions use their legal powers to block attempts at police reform and oversight wherever they come up, and use their financial power to attack and slander any politicians who are sympathetic to even moderate reforms. 
There is a pattern of FOP targeting female city council members who are responsive to citizens’ calls for police reforms and racial justice in Oklahoma cities. Tulsa City Councilors Lori Decter Wright, Kara Joy McKee and Vanessa Hall-Harper were targeted by an Ohio-based political action committee with financial ties to the Tulsa lodge of the FOP; Oklahoma City Councilmember JoBeth Hamon has repeatedly been attacked by the OKC FOP leadership and accused of lying about the excessive force she witnessed during summertime protests, including an incident on May 31st in which police cruisers charged protesters on live TV, almost hitting several people; and Kate Bierman, Alison Petrone, Sereta Wilson, and Alex Scott have all been targeted in Norman, by many tactics, including to remove by recall, efforts that were supported by national FOP President Patrick Yoes and police officers that do not reside or work in Norman. Outside influences should not determine our municipal budget or the outcome of our local elections. 
As a former sundown town established on land stolen from Indigenous people, racism has been the foundation and the rule of law in Norman for a majority of its history. We cannot overcome racism in our town if we don’t confront its significance in shaping the institutions we have today. This place was a sundown town as recently as 1967. That is not ancient history. This racist culture of exclusion is still within the living memory of current residents. We have an elementary school named after the architect of the Trail of Tears. We have so much work to do, and that work is made more difficult by constant, virulent attacks from a reactionary movement to maintain the racist status quo of white power structures in Norman. We must not shy away from condemning white supremacy, even when those who uphold it are our neighbors: when a candidate who has filed for local office proudly flashes the same white power symbol used by the New Zealand mass shooter in front of the Oklahoma State Capitol - as Ward 5 candidate Rarchar Tortorello was photographed doing in November - we cannot afford to use tepid language or to fall back on anxious cries for “unity” that ignore the need for accountability. We must make clear divisions between what is and is not acceptable in our public spaces and seats of power. Racist hatred is unacceptable. 
Norman residents calling for police reform and accountability must have a voice in our local government. Candidates must let our residents know that their seats cannot be bought. Elected officials in Norman must reject political donations from the Fraternal Order of Police and any other outside interests who seek to use dark money to undermine our local democracy and derail community efforts towards transparency, accountability, and an infrastructure of public safety that does not rely on violence and retribution. 

Norman Citizens for Racial Justice (NC4RJ) was founded in October 2017 as a local advocacy and action-oriented affiliation of grassroots activists in the Norman area. In September of 2020, the group changed its name to Norman Collective for Racial Justice to better reflect the group mission and organizational structure. 

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