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Watch Now: After peaceful protest at Tulsa Hills, young protesters move to 71st and Memorial, get out of street only after tear gas is used
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Watch Now: After peaceful protest at Tulsa Hills, young protesters move to 71st and Memorial, get out of street only after tear gas is used

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Update: 1:30 a.m.:

Police and the Oklahoma National Guard deployed at least two rounds of chemical irritants in south Tulsa early Wednesday after issuing repeated orders for several dozen young people to move out of the intersection at 71st Street and Memorial Drive.

The protesters, largely teenagers, were not seen throwing items in the direction of police, as had been alleged during past demonstrations during the evening hours in Tulsa. But Tulsa police could be heard repeatedly ordering the crowd to move toward sidewalks along Memorial Drive rather than occupy the intersection in the area of the Pizza Hut just south of 71st Street.

The Tulsa World broadcast the gathering on Facebook Live for about 40 minutes late Tuesday and early Wednesday, during which time police told the protesters to stay at least 30 feet away from them while warning that they had pepper balls on hand.

"Back up 30 feet right now! This is the Tulsa Police Department. Back up 30 feet now!" an officer said to the crowd over a public address system.

Members of the crowd could be seen at least twice interacting with police in an effort to resolve the dispute, but others who assembled didn't appear to listen to requests from fellow attendees to move out of the area.

Officers said they respected the legal right to assembly but later classified the gathering as an unlawful assembly once they determined that the group did not want to move out of the intersection. Tulsa does not have a curfew in effect.

Police deployed gas around 36 minutes into the World's live broadcast, saturating the intersection from multiple directions, including the parking lot where multiple reporters and photojournalists were standing.

The gas deterred the crowd for roughly 20 minutes before a group of teens returned to the street and was subject to a second deployment of irritants around 1 a.m. It was unclear whether the altercation early Wednesday resulted in property damage to businesses in the area.

The story that follows appears in Wednesday's Tulsa World. The developments at 71st and Memorial happened after press time.


The evening hours in Tulsa were the calmest in three nights as more than 50 young people gathered in the nearly empty Tulsa Hills shopping center Tuesday evening in a protest dedicated to nonviolence.


Video: Tulsa Hills protest moves to Woodland Hills mall


Tuesday’s assembly, which began loosely at 7 p.m., had a markedly different tone than the protest Monday near 71st Street and Memorial Drive, where many of the same teenagers were subject to the effects of multiple rounds of pepper balls and gas irritants deployed by police amid vandalism reports.

But much like the Woodland Hills shopping area on Monday, many stores in Tulsa Hills shut down early.

Target’s windows and doors were boarded over. Cracker Barrel pulled its rocking chairs off the porch, and Sam’s Club closed down. The Target at 71st Street and U.S. 169 also had closed earlier than normal amid fears of damage.

Organizers of Tuesday’s protest at Tulsa Hills called themselves the Peace Movement, and they wrangled participants for an impromptu meeting to reiterate that they were ready to run off anyone who had plans to engage in violence or looting. A group of protesters designated as “medics” gathered in the western end of the Target parking lot first, recognizable by red duct tape crosses over their clothing and vehicles.

By 10:50 p.m., the group moved from Town Center Drive north on Olympia Avenue toward 71st Street. Toward the beginning of the night, some leaders of the group told protesters not to talk to media as part of the #BlackoutTuesday social media campaign. But a vocal participant, Ashley, who declined to give her last name, said she steered them in a different direction in part after observing local TV stations comply with a request from Tulsa police to terminate their Facebook Live broadcasts of the police response to the conflict at 71st Street and Memorial Drive on Monday night.

A Tulsa Police Department spokeswoman said early Tuesday that the agency was concerned that the news feeds could be an incentive for acts of vandalism, though the majority of those present were streaming the scene on Facebook and putting it on Snapchat.

“I appreciate the way Blackout started, like the thought process of it, and everyone that wanted to ally and support against it, that’s actually pretty beautiful,” Ashley said. “But honestly it’s not helping; it’s censoring. Because what happens is if we’re not talking about it, we’re not saying (George Floyd’s) name.

“We’re not saying Breonna Taylor’s. We’re not saying Terence Crutcher’s or Trayvon Martin’s. Then people aren’t talking about it. And right now we have a major censorship problem going on anyways.”

Demonstrators who marched on Saturday and Sunday were older and more directly affiliated with existing organizations or churches in the Tulsa area as they processed the killing of George Floyd by then-Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. More than 1,000 people took to the streets Saturday in Brookside, filling the roadway from just south of 31st Street on Peoria Avenue for a march that went to Interstate 44 and Lewis Avenue before returning to Peoria.

But on Sunday night Tulsa police deployed pepper balls and tear gas in Brookside three times, alleging that protesters either threw items in their direction or refused to listen to orders to keep their distance. One of the deployments took place after officers responded to reports of damaged windows at a consignment store and a pawn shop on Peoria just north of I-44.

Police received assistance from the Oklahoma Army National Guard on Monday after saying they struggled to respond efficiently to reports of damage at the numerous businesses in the 71st Street and Memorial Drive corridor. Officers made at least four arrests on Monday, including one of a teenager accused of attempting to incite a riot by throwing items in the direction of police and Guard soldiers.

The teenager arrested is not affiliated with Black Lives Matter or any other organization that helped coordinate the weekend protests.

Police and soldiers used pepper balls and tear gas to force the teenagers to clear parking lots Monday night, saying the assembly became unlawful when people tried to throw items in the direction of authorities.


Gallery: People gather to hold protest at Tulsa Hills

Samantha Vicent

918-581-8321

samantha.vicent

@tulsaworld.com

Twitter:

@samanthavicent

Kelsy Schlotthauer

918-581-8455

kelsy.schlotthauer

@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @K_Schlott

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Staff Writer

I write because I care about people, policing and peace, and I believe the most informed people make the best decisions. I joined the Tulsa World in 2019 and currently cover breaking news. Phone: 918-581-8455

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