More than 200 members of the Oklahoma National Guard in Oklahoma City and Tulsa have been activated to respond to local protests against police violence as needed.
The guard teams activated by Governor Kevin Stitt and the Oklahoma Emergency Management Department are essentially on standby, said Lt. Col. Geoff Legler, a spokesman for the Oklahoma National Guard.
“Nobody has been sent out to do anything yet,” he said. “They were just told to report and get ready if they were needed.”
A quick-reacting team of more than 100 members in Oklahoma City was activated on Sunday. A similar team in Tulsa was activated on Monday.
If deployed, the National Guard will support the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Legler said.
“Generally in situations like this, we take care of checkpoints, traffic flow and the like so the actual law enforcement officers can do other things,” he said. If they are used, guardsmen and women will not carry weapons, he said.
Stitt on Monday reiterated his support for Oklahomans who choose to demonstrate peacefully, but said he cannot condone those who turn to violence or property destruction.
“At the request of local communities, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and the National Guard have been authorized to provide assistance when needed,” Stitt said. “These hardworking Oklahomans are our friends and neighbors who show up in times of need to protect peaceful protesters. Violence and property damage are against the Oklahoma Standard and are a distraction that keeps us from joining together to change for the better. “
The activated units of the National Guard differ from those who helped the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic by thoroughly cleaning nursing homes, working as contact tracers, and assisting local food pantries.
Local protests on Saturday and Sunday were part of the occasionally violent ripple effect that spread across the country following the death of George Floyd, a black man who recently died while being arrested in Minneapolis.
The protests in Oklahoma City, which were largely peaceful, have resulted in dozens of arrests as some people damaged local businesses and clashed with law enforcement.