As the father of multiracial children, Thomas Knight says he felt compelled to take part in the Black Lives Matter rally when nationwide protests erupted in response to the murder of George Floyd by police.
Speaking against police violence at a rally on May 31, 2020 in Tulsa, he said a mob had knocked him off the overpass and he collapsed 20 feet, leading to his partial paralysis.
Knight is now suing the city of Tulsa, the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety, some of its staff and an unidentified driver in the crowd.
In their lawsuit, filed Feb. 14 in the Federal District of Oklahoma, Knight and his legal team blame his fall for “deliberate indifference” and negligence on the part of those agencies.
Knight “exercised his constitutional right to freedom of speech and assembly in the performance of his civic duty to create a better world for his family, his children, and all,” his lawyers wrote in the lawsuit. “Now he will never be able to get up and follow the change.”
“His injuries could have been completely prevented and should never have happened,” they continued. “Had (the city and state road patrol) taken even the most basic precautions, (the Knight) would not have lost the use of his feet, and his suffering, and the suffering of his family, could have been spared.”
Spokesmen for the City of Tulsa and the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety said they did not comment on the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that Knight was one of thousands attending a rally that planned to drive through John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park near Interstate 244. When protesters approached the park, the lawsuit said Tulsa police directed them to a ramp between states. .
“Eventually, the protesters entered the western lane on I-244,” it said, and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol was called in to stop interstate traffic and protect participants and vehicles.
Video from KJRH on the day of the rally shows hundreds people on the overpass as vehicle traffic begins backup.
“Despite the fact that hundreds of protesters were traveling on the highway, the OHP allowed the Dodge pickup truck pulling a large horse-drawn trailer driven by John Doe Driver to pass through the barricade and pass through the protesters,” the statement said. “While John Doe Driver was trying to drive through the rally, he brandished a gun to intimidate rally participants.”
According to Knight’s legal team, one could hear the driver say, “You’re getting me off the road” before driving “through people”.
“You look back and see a giant trailer coming, and you turn to run, and there’s nowhere to go,” the witness said, according to the lawsuit. “The sounds were horrible … anger and screams, and after that passed, you heard people writhing.”
At the time, Knight said he was pushed from an overpass onto a city street below. He broke several bones in his spine, the lawsuit says, and now he is “paralyzed from the waist down” and needs a wheelchair to move around.
Knight demands at least $ 75,000 to cover injuries, medical expenses, pain and suffering, loss of pay and other losses.
Floyd, 46, died while detained by police on May 25, 2020, and his death sparked an avalanche of protests across the country. He died after now-fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Shavin pressed Floyd’s neck with his knees for more than nine minutes as three other officers chose not to intervene.
A 17-year-old passerby filmed a video of the incident in which you can hear Floyd say, “Please, please, please, I can’t breathe.”
During a trial that began on March 8, 2021 and ended on April 20, jurors of seven women and five men found Chauvin guilty of second-degree manslaughter, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
In June, Shaven was sentenced to 22.5 years in prison.
This story was originally published February 17, 2022 8:01.