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Tulsa protesters use race massacre 'tombstones’ to defend a Black Lives Matter mural

Victor Luckerson views symbolic tombstones on the Black Lives Matter mural in Tulsa on Monday. (Mike Simons/Tulsa World/AP)

Tulsa officials temporarily suspended an order to remove a Black Lives Matter display after protesters placed symbolic tombstones bearing the names of Black people shot by police or killed in the city’s 1921 race massacre.

On Monday morning, the protesters were braced for a standoff to prevent the city from removing the mural on the main street of Greenwood, the site of the massacre. Historians believe as many as 300 people in the historically Black community were killed in one of the worst incidents of racial violence in U.S. history.

“I felt like displaying the names of the victims of police brutality and the names of the victims of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre would help people understand why we say, ‘Black Lives Matter,' ” said Tiffany Crutcher, an activist in Tulsa whose twin brother, Terence Crutcher, was fatally shot by a police officer in 2016.

Last week, the Tulsa City Council ordered that the display be removed after a request by a pro-police group seeking permission to paint a “Blue Lives Matter” mural on another city street in support of the Tulsa Police Department.

As city crews arrived to remove the Black Lives Matter mural, Crutcher said, activists refused to move from the street “because this is sacred land."

On Monday afternoon, the city issued a temporary reprieve to “allow for a process that properly engaged impacted business and property owners.” City officials said the removal would be rescheduled, explaining that allowing the mural to remain “would open every city street in town - both main streets and neighborhood streets - to similar use."

The 250-foot-long Black Lives Matter mural was painted on June 19 to protest President Trump’s June 20 rally in Tulsa and to mark Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Texas learned they were free.

Trump rally in Tulsa, site of a race massacre, on Juneteenth was ‘almost blasphemous,’ historian says

The massacre has long haunted Greenwood, an all-Black neighborhood that was once so prosperous it was called “Black Wall Street.” It was destroyed after a White mob descended on Black Wall Street, burning 40 square blocks and leaving more than 10,000 people without homes.

The massacre, which was left out of textbooks, was covered up by city officials for decades. In July, the city began searching for mass graves potentially connected with the massacre.

Tulsa’s first dig for suspected mass graves from 1921 massacre of black people finds no human remains

Tulsa activists say the Black Lives Matter mural serves as a reminder of the atrocity of the massacre, especially as the city prepares to commemorate its 100th anniversary.

“I felt it would be fraudulent to put on a multimillion dollar commemoration, and we can’t keep a mural,” Crutcher said. “There was no atonement for the massacre of 1921 and no atonement for people whose lives were lost through police brutality. The same culture that burned down Black Wall Street is the same culture we are seeing today. At times, I feel powerless but we can’t stand by and say nothing. We have to speak up and speak out for what is right and what is justice.”

“Black Lives Matter” has been painted on streets in cities throughout the country, including in D.C. on 16th Street near the White House and in New York on Fifth Avenue in front of Trump Tower.

Some murals have sparked criticism and been subjected to vandalism. In July, three people were arrested after smearing blue paint on the mural in front of Trump Tower. Last month, two White people were charged with a hate crime after a video appeared to show them vandalizing a Black Lives Matter mural painted in front of a courthouse in Martinez, Calif.

In Tulsa, City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper, whose district represents Greenwood, told The Post that the mural should remain. “As far as I’m concerned, it is apropos for that space due to the massacre,” Hall-Harper said. “That mural makes a statement that is profound for the community it is in. It’s speaking truth to power.”

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