More Murals Create Controversy in Tulsa

After City Removes One, Others Appear, but They’re Removed, Too; Suspects Being Sought

TULSA–Large yellow block letters referencing the Black Lives Matter Movement are being painted on more city streets, even as a controversial mural in Black Wall Street was earlier removed by the city.

The   mural on Greenwood Avenue was removed by the city, thanks to a majority vote of the City Council about three weeks ago,   but the debate surrounding it continues.

Two weeks ago,  protestors at a Black Lives Matter rally responded to the mural removal by painting big yellow letters spelling “BLM” on Second Street  outside  City Hall and police  are searching for the individuals involved. 

The letters were painted on the street and a sidewalk with, some said,  much the same look as the Greenwood mural and similar murals around the country. 

Crews used power-washers to scrub the street clean of the freshly painted letters.

The police department  said three were arrested at the  protest of Saturday of two weeks ago, including Jess Eddy and James Lease, for obstruction, and Leigh Ann Johnson for malicious injury to property and jaywalking.

On Monday of last week, the police department posted on its Facebook page several pictures of suspects painting the letters on a street and asked the public for help in identifying the “persons of interest in the malicious injury to property.”

Mayor G.T. Bynum said the city would take legal action against suspects.

“Vandalism of public property is not a peaceful protest,” Mayor Bynum said.

 “It is a criminal act.   We will pursue legal action against those who damaged this city street and City Hall, with the expectation that they pay for repairs rather than the citizens of Tulsa.”

A statement issued by the Mayor’s Office said, in addition  to the letters on the street and sidewalk outside City Hall, paint–mostly in the form of smeared yellow hand prints–was found on the columns of the government building at 175 E. Second St.

 Rev. Mareo Johnson, leader of Black Lives Matter of Tulsa, said his group was not part of the Saturday protest outside City Hall or the street painting.

“It wasn’t Black Lives Matter of Tulsa that organized that demonstration,” he declared.   “It was people passionate about the movement.”

Rev. Johnson said he wasn’t surprised that some people are upset about the removal of the Greenwood mural because of what the area represents–the site of Black Wall Street, a prosperous Black community that was destroyed during the 1921 Race Massacre along with the murders of more than 300 Black residents at the hands of white mobs.

“Black Lives Matter is a strong message and removing that message off of Black Wall Street where the worst massacre took place is a bad look, which will prompt many to make sure the statement is seen and heard,” he said.

 Rev. Robert Turner, the pastor of Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church on Greenwood Avenue, also said he wasn’t shocked that the Black Lives Matter message had been painted, once again,  on city streets.

“I concede that the city has the right to decide what is on a street, be it a street name or what is actually on a street,” the minister said, “but  one thing the city cannot do is take Black Lives Matter out of the hearts of Tulsa. 

“They can take it off the streets of Tulsa, but they can never take it out of the hearts of Tulsans and I’m so encouraged by the wonderful citizens in this city, both Black and white, who are not afraid to say, ‘Black Lives Matter.’ ”

“As a pastor and as a student of history, movements that are in the heart always win,” he went on.

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