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Mayor, Stakeholders Don't See Eye-To-Eye As Conflict Over 'Black Lives Matter' Mural Continues

Chris Polansky

It's he-said-they-said between Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum and key stakeholders in the Greenwood District, as the conflict continues over whether or not the unauthorized "BLACK LIVES MATTER" mural on Greenwood Avenue can remain.

In a statement and a subsequent press conference, Bynum said the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce, which owns the property on either side of the block in question, told him they did not want the mural to remain.

On Tuesday, Freeman Culver, the group's president, said that was untrue.

"This is something that the mayor of Tulsa is using to divide the Black community, and I say 'no' to that," Culver said at a press conference at the mural. 

Standing alongside Culver, Rev. Robert Turner of Greenwood's Vernon A.M.E. Church accused the mayor of playing politics.

"This mayor has given yes and no and yes and no to this mural, and it seems to me that he only cares about what is politically expedient, and not what is morally right," Turner said.

Bynum brought up the mural unprompted at a COVID-19 press conference at Tulsa Police headquarters on Tuesday, shortly after the press conference featuring Culver, Turner, and others on Greenwood.

"They conveyed to me, the leadership of the Greenwood Chamber and the tenants association, that they did not want to (seek a city permit), that the message that's there is associated with a national political movement that not all people are onboard with, and they did not think it should be in the middle of a street," Bynum said.

"They also conveyed to me that they were upset with me for delaying the removal of the mural yesterday morning, and that they did not want to be in the middle of some big fight between activists and the legal team at the city."

At his press conference, Bynum said the power to grant permitting for such messages rests solely with the Tulsa City Council, and not with the office of the mayor. 

"It has to be removed," Bynum said in his statement. "Ideally, there is a visible location on private property that doesn’t present the same challenges. Based on discussions yesterday, I think there is a nearby property owner who wants the City Council to consider a permit option in a different location. That will be at the Council’s discretion."Bynum named that property owner as the Hill

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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