BLM mural on Tulsa’s ‘Black Wall Street’ faces removal

A Black Lives Matter mural painted in the streets of Tulsa, Oklahoma has to go, say city officials.

A child runs the the street during the Juneteenth celebration in the Greenwood District on June 19, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)

A Black Lives Matter street mural painted in Tulsa, Oklahoma has been removed after city officials stated the artwork was never approved in the first place.

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According to CNN, the bold lettering was displayed in the historic Greenwood District in the city’s Black Wall Street area. The artwork was created on June 18, the day before Juneteenth and two days before President Donald Trump held a campaign rally in the area.

Volunteers and artists not officially affiliated with the Black Lives Matter organization completed the mural on Greenwood Avenue. The neighborhood is noted for being the site of a historical, racially motivated massacre.

In 1921, in what’s now known as the Tulsa Race Riot, a violent white mob attacked Black residents and burned down Black-owned businesses after a 19-year-old shoeshiner was accused of attacking a white teenage girl.

According to History, schools, churches, hotels, hospitals, and homes were among the buildings torched in the attack that left hundreds of people dead and over 10,000 Black residents homeless.

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Tulsa’s City Council debated the viability of the BLM mural after receiving a request from Back The Blue Tulsa who wanted to paint their own message on another street in support of law enforcement officers.

Senior Assistant City Attorney Mark Swiney says there are no laws in place to allow the art, saying “There really isn’t anything in our laws that makes a street into a canvas to convey a message or essentially make a sign out of a street surface.” He suggested private property would be best for proposed paint jobs.

City council members concluded it would not be fair to allow one statement and not the other so they decided the BLM mural would be removed.

“It’s not about the message or anything like that,” Councilor Connie Dodson said during the meeting, according to CNN. “I applaud it. It’s great. But at the same point, it comes down to yes, if you allow one, then you have to allow all of them.”

Ryan Rhoades, an artist who helped organize the painting of the BLM mural, tells CNN affiliate KOKI-TV that the decision to remove it is not surprising but it had served its purpose as a message on Juneteenth and during Trump’s visit. The water-based paint used was not intended to be permanent.

A date to remove the paint is not yet set.

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