| April 10, 2018

Outsider involvement in school staff protests

Staff Reports

Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, who won Oklahoma Democrats’ support in the 2016 presidential primary, threw his state organization behind the school shutdown this week, while law enforcement warned that potentially violent outsiders might try to infiltrate the marchers.

The Sanders organization emailed its Oklahoma supporter list with a copy of the OEA’s strike call and the admonition to join them. It said “Paid for by Friends of Bernie Sanders, P. O. Box 391, Burlington, VT.” That is apparently the tagline for Sanders’ defunct 2016 Democratic presidential campaign.

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety issued a statement at midweek warning that agency had “identified a growing number of outside protest groups not involved with the ongoing teachers rally present at the State Capitol.

“In the past, some of these groups have been known to show violent behavior during non-violent rallies,” the statement added. “There have been reports of threats made to members of the Legislature and the Governor’s Office.”

DPS is responsible for Capitol security and also operates the executive protection details for the Governor and Lieutenant Governor. It is rare that the agency makes public comment like the one above on security matters.

One legislator who asked not to be named said he has had generally cordial interactions with most teachers and students, but that there has been a darker undercurrent to some of those encounters.

“One of them held up a sign in the House gallery saying ‘this profession kills fascists’,” the lawmaker said. “That could easily be taken as a threat of violence.” He said a legislative assistant to one representative reported being shoved by a protestor, and another suffered a mild heart attack after being caught in the crush of bodies in the Capitol halls. Staff legislative assistants were then sent home for the remainder of the day.

“So far I haven’t had my car keyed,” the lawmaker joked.

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