Oklahoma pro-police group launches petition to oust Norman mayor, council for cutting funding

The group was initially upset over a mandate requiring the wearing of face mask amid an uptick in coronavirus cases

A group of Norman, Okla., residents have launched a recall effort to oust the city's mayor and half the City Council over budget cuts to the police department and her order that people wear masks in public to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The group "Unite Norman" was borne out of frustration with a June 17 City Council vote to divert $865,000 -- or 3.6 percent --  of police funds to community development programs to track police overtime and to fund an internal auditor position. The vote was taken after a contentious 11-hour meeting held amid nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd and calls to reign in police misconduct.

In a series of tweets, Mayor Breea Clark called the grounds for the recall alleged in the petition "false and baseless."

Four of Norman's eight City Council members being targeted are Ward 1 representative Kate Bierman, Ward 3 representative Alison Petrone, Ward 5 representative Sereta Wilson and Ward 7 representative Stephen Holman.

The group says it has a bipartisan agenda with the goal of removing "divisive and radical figures" in an effort to "to return Norman to the center politically," according to its Facebook page.

"We are trying to get rid of radicals," group member Russell Smith told KWTV-DT. "This has nothing to do with Democrat or Republican, left or right. We want to center the ship here in Norman."

Group members were also upset with Clark's decision to mandate the wearing of masks following an uptick in coronavirus cases. She was further criticized for keeping some businesses and houses of worship closed.

Norman Mayor Breea Clark listens during a Tuesday City Council meeting. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Norman Mayor Breea Clark listens during a Tuesday City Council meeting. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

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As of Friday, Norman, the third-largest city in the state, reported 637 COVID-19 cases and 23 deaths.

The petition to oust Clark would require the collecting of at least 18,125 signatures -- or 25 percent of registered voters to move forward, The Oklahoman reported. Signatures to oust the councilmembers would require significantly less since they represent portions of the city.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.