TULSA, Okla. — What started as a peaceful protest near Woodland Hills Mall in south Tulsa, ended with tear gas and pepper balls being deployed by police to disperse crowds.
Tulsa police added extra security at the mall on Monday after rumors swirled around on social media of possible violence erupting.
Protesters stayed peaceful into evening hours, displaying signs of solidarity while standing alongside the curb near 71st and Memorial.
It wasn’t until someone broke into a store around 9:40 p.m., shattering the glass, that things started to change.
Officers said by doing this it turned into an unlawful assembly, causing them to deploy pepper balls and tear gas to disperse the crowd.
Several agitators continued to vandalize storefronts and businesses according to police, and eyewitnesses.
Around 10:35 p.m., police said the crowds were starting to disperse even though agitators were throwing rocks at their patrol units.
After multiple unsuccessful attempts of using tear gas and pepper balls to remove agitators and dispersing the large crowd, the Oklahoma National Guard was called in to help assist Tulsa Police. This action to be able to use the national guard was approved Gov. Kevin Stitt Monday afternoon.
Governor Kevin Stitt released this statement about the use of the guard:
"Yesterday’s demonstrations contained many powerful moments of Oklahomans coming together to make their voices heard and express their First Amendment rights safely. As many of the leaders of yesterday’s events have echoed, things started to change after the organized demonstration ended. I will continue to stand with Oklahomans who choose to peacefully demonstrate, but we cannot stand for violence or damage to property.
At the request of local communities, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and the National Guard have been authorized to provide support as needed. These hardworking Oklahomans are our friends and neighbors who step up in times of need, including to protect peaceful demonstrators. Violence and damage to property goes against the Oklahoma Standard and is a distraction designed to keep us from uniting together to change for the better."
Tulsa Chief of Police Wendell Franklin said late in the night that there were numerous arrests made by the police department and that those who vandalized businesses and attempted to loot, will be prosecuted.
Even though some storefronts became vandalized, one group tried to bring back the peace by sitting, asking others to join them (pictured below).
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