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Blue paint splattered across Tulsa 'Black Lives Matter' street painting: 'An act of a coward'
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Blue paint splattered across Tulsa 'Black Lives Matter' street painting: 'An act of a coward'

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Supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement on Sunday repainted the slogan in bright yellow letters on Greenwood Avenue after a line of blue paint was splattered over it at an unknown time, possibly overnight.

“Personally, on my note, this is an act of a coward,” said C.J. Weber-Neal, a member of the Greeenwood Arts and Cultural Society.

“A coward comes down in the middle of the night because they’re too scared to express how they really feel. So they feel that the best way to express that is for them to come through and do something like this,” he said at the site on Sunday afternoon.

The Black Lives Matter message was painted without the city’s permission on Greenwood Avenue just north of Archer Street on the eve of Juneteenth, and discussions have been in the works among activists and city officials about possibly allowing the painting to remain.

The blue paint appeared as a line splattered across most of the length of the center of the Black Lives Matter letters, and the pattern appeared as if someone had slowly driven by and poured it from a can. The color blue is often associated with law enforcement, especially the image of a thin blue line.

“It’s blue paint, it’s obvious what kind of message they were trying to send,” Weber-Neal said. “And the problem is, is that you have, in my opinion, someone who is a blatant bigot who decided that this would be a good way to send some kind of message that they probably don’t even believe in themselves. They’re just using that as a prop to be able to boost their own agenda.”

Weber-Neal said supporters of the BLM painting used social media on Sunday to organize an effort to repaint it. By Sunday evening, several dozen volunteers had repainted the entire mural.

On Sunday afternoon, Mayor G.T. Bynum released a statement, saying “No one helps the Tulsa Police Department by stoking division in our community.

“The proper place for this debate to be resolved is not with paint on the street but with a determination by the elected representatives of the citizens of Tulsa on the City Council.

“We will continue to await the council’s determination of whether or not to establish criteria for painting messages on city streets.”

“This was a cowardly act of vandalism, but it doesn’t change our plans,” City Councilor Kara Joy McKee said in a statement. Her district includes Greenwood.

“The City Council will discuss the best way to protect and maintain this mural as a new historic landmark for Tulsa in our meeting on the 19th,” she said.

One option councilors plan to look into is whether the Black Lives Matter street sign could be permitted as part of the Main Street Program. The Historic Greenwood District was recently added as a program of the Oklahoma Main Street Center.

The Rev. Mareo Johnson, founder and president of the Black Lives Matter Tulsa Chapter and pastor of Seeking the Kingdom Ministries, said he wasn’t sure who could have been behind the vandalism.

“My first thought was, ‘Well, it could be anybody,’ ” he said. “I don’t think our Police Department is behind it. I sure don’t think that.

“Do I think it is some racist person behind it? I don’t know, maybe. But Black Lives Matter is not against police. So whoever done it, it don’t look good ... it don’t make sense because it’s not no war with Black Lives Matter and the Police Department.

“Black Lives Matter is just opposed to any kind of injustice. It is not targeting police ... it is just injustice.”

Last week, a Mayor’s Office spokeswoman said Bynum would wait until the City Council takes up the issue again Aug. 19 before proceeding with any action on the mural.

City attorneys have advised city councilors that if the BLM sign was allowed to remain, the city would have to allow any and all street paintings, unless they were pornographic or would incite a riot.

Bynum, who has said he personally supports the painting’s message, also has said that if it were on private property rather than a public street, questions about it remaining would not be an issue.

“I think it is a very cool mural, and the other ones I have seen around the country, they are really cool, but they should be on private property,” he said earlier this month.

“The reason again is, if you start using public property to convey messages, then you have to allow all messages, and that suddenly turns our entire street network in the city into billboards.”

At least 50 such BLM murals have been created in cities across the country, amid protests and demonstrations following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kept a knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes on May 25.


Gallery: Volunteers repaint Black Lives Matter mural that was vandalized

Gallery: “Black Lives Matter” painted overnight on street in Tulsa’s Greenwood District

Video: Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum explains the law and what is to come with BLM mural

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