TULSA, Okla. (WCIV/AP) - An estimated 50 people showed up outside an office building in Tulsa to support a 3-year-old Cherokee girl at the center of an adoption dispute between her biological father and a couple in South Carolina who have adopted her.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin's Tulsa office became ground zero Saturday afternoon for those in support of Dusten Brown keeping custody of his biological daughter.
Those in the group Saturday carried signs with slogans such as "stand your ground for Veronica Brown" and said they are supporting the girl.
"I just want to be a voice for Veronica," said one protester clad in pink.
Another woman said she thought the courts siding with 3-year-old Veronica's adoptive parents from South Carolina would lead to an erosion of tribal sovereignty. Others were concerned that a confirmed adoption by the Capobiancos would lead to a loss of cultural identity for Veronica.
Bruce Hopper, who is adopted himself, said the connection between biological child and father is crucial.
"I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with the adoption, but when the biological parent is actually ready to take care of the child, I think he should have that opportunity," he said.
But Hopper says he does feel remorse for the Capobiancos, who were present at Veronica's birth, developed a relationship with the birth mother, and raised the girl for the first 27 months of her life before courts ordered Veronica be given to Brown.
"At the same time, they have to understand how she's going to feel whenever she grows up, if she finds out she was taken from a biological parent that actually wanted her," Hopper said.
Two families are fighting for custody and have filed a mediation agreement in an effort to determine the best way to raise the child.
The Capobiancos said on Monday they were prepared to fly to Oklahoma to get their daughter if authorities did not act. By Wednesday, word had spread that the Capobiancos were in Tulsa and trying to meet with Brown and Veronica.
According to the family spokeswoman Jessica Munday, Brown told the Capobiancos that meeting them would not be in Veronica's best interests.
The two sides spent a day in district and tribal court, but details of a mediation agreement and what was said in the hearings has been sparse after a judge issued a gag order on the case.
Further hearings are expected within the next 18 days.
Meanwhile, Fallin has said it is in Veronica's best interests to have a meeting with the Capobiancos and she has urged Brown to make that happen, threatening to carry out a warrant signed by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley that would extradite Brown back to the Lowcountry to face charges filed in Charleston.
The U.S. Supreme Court says Brown cannot use the Indian Child Welfare Act to press his claims.
"There's more babies out there for them to find," said one protester Saturday. "I think someone is prodding them to keep this going to weaken the Indian Child Welfare Act and tribal sovereignty."
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Ethan Calloway contributed to this report from Tulsa, Okla.