TULSA, Okla. (KFOR/KJRH) – Community leaders in Tulsa are set to discuss whether or not they want to remove a ‘Black Lives Matter’ mural in the historic Greenwood District.
The Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma was once called “Black Wall Street,” a 35-block radius in the segregated community thriving with hundreds of black-owned businesses.
But, on June 1, 1921, the entire area was burned down as a result of a riot that began after a black man was accused of assaulting a white woman.
White residents attacked the community, killing hundreds of black residents and injuring 800 others.
Despite it being one of the worst instances of racial violence in the United States, the massacre was mostly swept under the rug.
In June, a group painted ‘Black Lives Matter’ along Greenwood Avenue without a permit.
After the mural was finished, many members of the community demanded that it become a permanent fixture along the avenue.
Originally, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum told the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce that it would have to apply for a permit to keep the mural in place.
However, the chamber said it does not own the avenue, the nearby businesses, and did not paint the mural.
“The Greenwood Chamber of Commerce demands that the City of Tulsa refrain from removing or altering the writing, as it is an appropriate message to have at the location of the 1921 race massacre,” a release from the chamber read.
In recent weeks, KJRH reports that someone poured a line of blue paint across the mural.
“This speaks directly to the issue at hand, black lives not mattering. They didn’t matter nearly 100 years ago clearly and we are still grappling with and struggling with this today,” Vanessa Hall-Harper said.
Now, the Tulsa City Council is set to discuss whether or not to keep the mural in place on Wednesday.
One Tulsa councilmember, Crista Patrick, says she is worried about the laws surrounding murals on streets.
“Public streetways are Federally mandated for safety. There are serious violations if anything except authorized public safety markings are used. We do not have the power in our city charter to permit otherwise. If we tried to change our city charter to allow for this there would be serious fines to the federal regulations and the city would be liable for all traffic accidents that occurred due to the unclear traffic safety markings being covered. On top of the fact that we have freedom of speech in our country so we would not be able to moderate what any group would want to say. But Bottom line is that none of that matters as we do not have the power to permit against Federal safety Regulations. That is why when in the past groups have requested permits of this type they have been denied,” she posted on Facebook.
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