The event that sparked Black Lives Matter protests all over the United States was the killing of George Floyd on Memorial Day in Minneapolis. Norman, Oklahoma faced a similar dispute between racial justice activists and police officers union on the opposing end.
Norman was historically a town of racial inequality and is known as a ‘sundown town’ which meant black people were banned from the town after sunset.
The City Council of Norman had a meeting to discuss the budget, the original plan involving an increase in the police budget. However, they were interrupted by racial justice activists insisting that the police budget should be cut.
The protestors’ demands were led by the phrase ‘defund the police’ meaning they wanted funding to be diverted to social services, development programs, and community outreach.
Protestors also highlighted various previous cases of mistreatment of Black people by the police, including instances of racial profiling and the use of excessive force. The budget vote was finally delayed due to pressure from the protestors.
At the next budget vote meeting, the discourse between the two opposing parties continued. However, the council members decided on decreasing the police budget by more than $800,000 to fund a program to cater to public-health issues as well as to appoint an internal auditor to oversee the expense of the city.
Following this decision, United Norman was established, their main purpose being to recall the council members who were supporting the budget cuts.
Moreover, the police union blamed the council for not informing them of the vote through a public notice and filed a lawsuit against the city council demanding a refund of their budget.
Activists as well as city council members including Bierman and Scott faced harassment and threats over social media while United Norman accused protestors of the same.
Considering the city’s history, black people are afraid to be vocal about these issues, many of them choosing not to be mentioned by name in media as well. They feel that white people do not understand their struggle and their sentiments relating to this movement.
There have also been mixed opinions over the phrase ‘defund the police’. On one hand, people want funding to be diverted to social programs and on the other, some believe the police and black people need to mend fences.