By The Associated Press
TULSA, Okla. (AP) — The city of Tulsa has decided to remove a massive “Black Lives Matter” sign painted on a city street following a request from a group of local Republicans seeking permission to paint a “Back the Blue” sign.
Tulsa councilors decided to get rid of the sign during a Wednesday council meeting in which they discussed whether paintings on city streets are legal without permits.
The discussion kicked off last week after Bob Jack, chairman of the Tulsa Republican Party, asked his councilor about the procedure for painting a mural in support of law enforcement officers. Jack said it was a rhetorical question because he already knows the city does not have a process for street paintings.
(Image courtesy City of Tulsa via Wikimedia Commons)
Jack said he is not against the signs, but he doesn’t think it should be on a city street.
Tulsa City attorney David O’Meilia said paintings on city streets are only allowed for safety reasons, like crosswalks or yield signs.
Councilor Connie Dodson said she is not against what the “Black Lives Matter” sign represents.
“But (as) this discussion has shown, it is kind of a slippery slope when it gets into that kind of activity,” Dodson said.
Dodson asked the City Attorney’s Office to draft an ordinance “that would prohibit this type of free speech on our sidewalks and streets so that it is clear and then we don’t have the ambiguity anymore.”
Without the city’s approval, a group of activists and volunteers painted the sign just before the arrival of President Donald Trump for a campaign rally and Juneteenth, a state holiday commemorating the emancipation of Black slaves in America.
Briana Shea, who helped make the 250 foot (76.20 meters) long sign, said she thought it healed the community the days surrounding Trump’s visit.
“I am kind of disappointed that it was left up to a city vote, not a community vote, because it was all based around community and community (donated) dollars, not city dollars,” Shea said.
The Mayor’s Office said Wednesday that there is not a scheduled day or time to remove the “Black Lives Matter” sign.
City Traffic Engineer Kurt Kraft said he was told not to remove the street sign until the City Council could meet with the Mayor’s Office to discuss next steps.