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City of Tulsa removes Black Lives Matter mural in Greenwood District

Crews work to remove Black Lives Matter mural as part of scheduled street project.
Crews removed the Black Lives Matter mural in the Greenwood District early Monday morning.
Greenwood Black Lives Matter painting.jpg
Posted at 10:00 AM, Oct 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-05 10:51:04-04

TULSA, Okla. — The Black Lives Matter mural in the Greenwood district was removed October 5., according to the City of Tulsa.

Crews began work early Monday morning.

PHOTO GALLERY: Crews remove Black Lives Matter mural in Greenwood District

The mural sparked a debate between the city and community.

More than 50 people painted the words "Black Lives Matter" in the Greenwood district the night before Juneteenth celebrations in 2020. The next day President Donald Trump held a rally at downtown Tulsa's BOK Center.

READ MORE: Artists paint "Black Lives Matter" on street in Greenwood District

The location of the mural is significant because it is in the area where the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre occurred. Modern estimates state as many as three hundred black residents were killed in the massacre - some possibly buried in mass graves. Hundreds more were hurt or detained, and more than 35 blocks were leveled.

READ MORE: 99 years later: The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre

The Black Lives Matter mural became a topic of debate after a group asked the city about painting a Blue Lives Matter mural in a similar style in July 2020. In late July, the City of the Tulsa said the Black Lives Matter mural must be removed after looking into rules and regulations.

Thousands began demanding the city make the mural permanent in the Greenwood District on an online petition. The petition currently has over 14,000 signatures.

READ MORE: Thousands demand Greenwood BLM mural be made permanent

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum took to Facebook in early August 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 added the mural is also on 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 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. 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 couldn't remain at the current location. However, there might be a nearby property owner who is interested in the City Council considering a permit in a different location.

On Aug. 9th someone spilled a line of blue paint across the mural.

READ MORE: Blue paint thrown on Black Lives Matter mural in Greenwood

In Sept. 2020, a group began painting Black Lives Matter murals at several churches in Tulsa, including, Fellowship Congregation, All Souls Unitarian and Saint Paul's United Methodist churches.

Now, starting on Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, the controversial mural is being removed as part of a mill and overlay project already scheduled for Greenwood Avenue. The project is expected to take one week.

We'll be live with the latest on Monday, Oct. 5 on 2 Works for You Today at 4:30, 5 and 6 a.m.

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