A proposed “unity demonstration” that had been planned for Sapulpa this weekend has been put on hold, perhaps indefinitely.
A post on the Sapulpa Police Department Facebook Page says that “A decision was made by the event organizers to temporarily postpone the protest to a later date that has yet to be determined.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Sapulpa Times spoke with Van Burkhead, the creator of the “Sapulpa Unity Demonstration” Facebook group that was largely used as a communication hub among those interested in participating in the rally. He said the reason for canceling was because he was no longer sure that he’d be able to keep everyone safe.
“My first priority for this was always that it remain safe for everyone involved, and it got to a point where that was no longer a guarantee.”
Burkhead said that the term “unity demonstration” was used instead of “protest” because he wanted it to be a chance to unify the city, not divide it. The gathering was meant to be “pro-black, pro-police, pro-city…a chance for us to stand together in support of our city.”
In the few days that the group had existed, it had already gathered donations for water and face masks, not to mention the scores of individuals who wanted to participate. In fact, it was the popularity of the group that might’ve caused the tipping point. “I got word that there was going to be a large Tulsa citizen population there as part of this,” Burkhead said. “That could not happen. They can’t speak for Sapulpa.”
After the Sapulpa Police made their announcement, Burkhead posted to the group saying that demonstration had been postponed due to “unforeseen complications.” He cautions those that might decide to protest anyway, that they may be putting themselves in harm’s way:
Although some commenters have voiced their concerns that Sapulpa’s city leaders or Sapulpa Police could have persuaded Burkhead to cancel the demonstration, he insists that’s not the case. “We had our permit,” Burkhead said. “We were going to hold it in Kelly Lane Park near Highway 117 [Taft Street]. There was a lot of concern that, with that many people, that close to the main thoroughfare, we just didn’t want anyone to get hurt.”
Burkhead said that he did meet with city leaders and with the police, and they expressed some concerns about the safety issue and that he listened to them. “I listened to their concerns. I examined them. I decided that we didn’t give the city enough time to respond, and we didn’t give ourselves enough time to organize.”
Burkhead has archived the Facebook group, and says he plans to remove it entirely by Friday. He says he hopes someone else will step up and take the cause farther “than I could have gone with it. We need a real community leader to organize this thing.”