In response to state officials spreading rumors of paid protesters and threats of violence at the Capitol this week, the ACLU of Oklahoma issued the following statement:
The following statement is attributable to Ryan Kiesel, Executive Director:
“ACLU Legal Observers have been present at the Capitol since the first day of this walkout and have witnessed nothing inside or outside the building that constitutes a threat. In fact, the only thing our observers have witnessed are educators, public employees, and their supporters engaging in the most American and democratic practice of peacefully petitioning their government.
Specific, credible threats should be investigated and dealt with by authorities. However, attempts to use vague claims of threatening behavior and baseless rumors of paid protesters to undermine the legitimacy of the message being delivered by thousands of educators is a lame and unacceptable response by lawmakers. Further, any efforts to use these rumors to restrict speech are unconstitutional and will not be tolerated. We have seen absolutely no evidence to suggest that current security measures at the Capitol are insufficient to protect legislators, staff, and visitors at the Capitol.
Without knowing the full scope of these alleged threats, it is important that lawmakers and law enforcement agencies do not confuse constitutionally protected political pressure with threats to safety. Respecting the First Amendment rights of the protestors and responding to credible threats are not mutually exclusive goals.
If any state official attempts to use alleged threats or rumors as an excuse to shut down the First Amendment rights of the tens of thousands of Oklahomans gathered at the Capitol this week, they should be prepared to meet the ACLU of Oklahoma in court.”
ACLU Legal Observers will remain present on-site for the duration of the walkout.