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City of Tulsa will move forward with removal of Black Lives Matter mural

Posted at 5:09 PM, Aug 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-05 15:38:27-04

TULSA, Okla. — The debate continues for the Black Lives Matter mural in the Greenwood District.

The City of Tulsa announced they will proceed with removal of the Black Lives Matter mural on Greenwood Avenue.

City officials said they temporarily suspended the removal of the mural Monday, Aug. 3 to allow discussions to happen.

During those discussions, the property owner, merchant and tenant association all indicated they do not want the mural to remain in the Greenwood District, said city officials.

The City of Tulsa said they will now proceed with the removal of the mural when it can be scheduled.

Utilization of any city street as a public forum would open every city street in town - both main streets and neighborhood streets - to similar use. Following the City Council’s determination last week not to issue a permit and the conclusion of stakeholder discussions today, the City will now proceed with removal of the mural when such action can be scheduled.

Activists in the Greenwood District told 2 Works for You that this mural is more than just three words.

“G.T. talked to the Washington Post back in March and said he wanted to be on the right side of history, but here is history again and he is wanting to wash it away,” said Briana Shea, an artist and activist.

They are trying to get city leaders to understand how much it means to them and the community, by doing so this could help them save it from being erased.

“If we treat this as a monument in a historic district it can be selectively received with out having to say ‘we have to allow everything,” said Ryan Rodes, an artist and activist.

Tulsa Attorney David O'Meillia said, “The kinds of things that can be painted in the street are for safety and traffic management. And there certainly is no safety or traffic management benefit from messages painted on the street. If you let people paint on the street, if you let one you have to let them all.”

Three different local activist groups met in Greenwood after not hearing back from city officials on the matter.

Mario Johnson says “it's just saying that black lives should be included into the all lives matter statement and then it would make it a true statement, so there is a message in Black Lives Matter and for some one who would want to erase that it’s like erasing the message”

Activists said the council should consider the mural's historical message and placement.

The groups said even though the paint is temporary, the message should be permanent in Tulsa.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum took to Facebook the morning after the city announced they were proceeding with the mural's removal.

It is a beautiful mural. The message is an important one, and its location is a powerful one given all that Greenwood means to Tulsa.
Mayor G.T. Bynum

Bynum adds the mural is also in a public street without permission from the business or property owners on either side of it. He said the people who painted the mural told police that the paint was temporary and "would wash away in the few days."

Bynum said there are two options the city had: start permitting messages in streets or "vacate" the street, meaning turning it over to the adjacent property owners.

The permit option did not move forward after a Tulsa City Council meeting last week.

The second option, Bynum said, was a discussion between himself and the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce. Bynum said the leadership does not want to pursue the option.

The legal and financial liabilities for operations and maintenance of a street are potentially enormous. Both the property owner and the tenants representative made clear to me they did not request the mural and do not want it to remain.
Mayor G.T. Bynum | Facebook

Bynum said the mural can't remain at it's current location. However, there might be a nearby property owner who is interested in the City Council considering a permit in a different location.

The City of Tulsa has not announced a date and time the mural will be removed.

However, Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Bynum sent a letter to the president of the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce Freeman Culver.

In the letter, the mayor provided instructions on how the chamber could submit a permit request to preserve the mural.

The deadline given by Mayor Bynum is by the close of business Thursday, Aug. 6.

VIEW a TIMELINE of events for the Black Lives Matter mural in the Greenwood District, below:

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