TULSA, Okla. — Competing rallies over the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a white Oklahoma police officer could have left residents with the difficult choice of who to support, but some said Tuesday it was possible to back both police and the slain man.
Hundreds of people led by the Rev. Al Sharpton attended a rally and march in downtown Tulsa for 40-year-old Terence Crutcher, who was fatally shot Sept. 16 by police officer Betty Jo Shelby after she arrived on a street to find Crutcher’s SUV stopped in the middle of the road.
As the Crutcher rally was happening, about a dozen supporters gathered on the courthouse plaza blocks away to voice support for Shelby, who is charged with first-degree manslaughter in Crutcher’s death and scheduled to be arraigned Friday.
The shooting was recorded by a police helicopter and a cruiser camera. It prompted several rallies and protests in the city last week, all of them peaceful.
Don Ailsworth, a black Tulsa resident who attended the Shelby rally and planned to go to another Crutcher event scheduled for later in the day near City Hall, said people shouldn’t have to choose between supporting one over the other. He said the two sides can find common ground.
“I hope they could come to understand and love one another,” said Ailsworth, 69, a former Los Angeles police officer. “Hatred isn’t going to work.”
While at the Shelby rally, Ailsworth joined white Tulsa resident Lori Adams in a walk around the courthouse in a show of solidarity. Adams, 46, toted a sign voicing support for officers and their families.
Krista Mooney-Shea, who’s white and married to a retired suburban police captain, said the ideas that come from the Crutcher and Shelby rallies can coexist.
“Everyone matters,” said Mooney-Shea, 45, of the Tulsa suburb of Broken Arrow.
A lawyer for Crutcher’s family, Melvin Hall, said before the march that the peaceful tone of the protests signals Tulsa can be recognized for “a new beginning,” despite being the site of a race riot nearly 100 years ago that left hundreds of blacks dead.