The decision to remove the mural, which was painted on the street surface on June 20 without a city permit, followed a Tulsa City Council meeting on Wednesday.
Councilors were reminded that street signs aren’t legal in the city. Markings on public streets are prohibited under federal traffic laws due to safety issues.
They were also told that if they allowed the mural to remain in the district, requests from other groups to write their own messages would have to be granted, given they do not incite violence or are not sexually explicit in nature.
According to Public Radio Tulsa, Councilor Cass Fahler said that he had received requests from several pro-police groups about painting the words “Back the Blue” in another area in the city, in support of the Tulsa Police Department.
Councilors agreed Wednesday that allowing the “Black Lives Matter” mural to remain on the city’s street surface would grant other groups the right to express themselves on city streets with their own messages.
Permission was never granted for the creation of the street mural, which was painted around the time of President Donald Trump’s visit to the city last month. Artists told Tulsa police at the time that the words were drawn on the street using a chalk-like material that would wash away with rain, reported Fox 23.
News of the mural’s planned removal comes as thousands are calling on the city to make it permanent. More than 10,000 people have signed an online petition requesting Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum to allow the mural to become a permanent fixture in the Greenwood District, which was devastated during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
“The mural on Greenwood Avenue/The Black Wall Street will serve as a constant reminder of the need for continuous change and honor the lives of those that were lost and forever changed due to the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot (also referred to as the Tulsa Race Massacre),” the petition reads.
“The Greenwood District/The Black Wall Street has never recovered, however, the mural will serve as a constant reminder of what was and what can be, promote growth, be uplifting and retain the history (in the remaining portion of the District) while continuing to instill pride in the area.”
Mark Swiney, an attorney for Tulsa’s legal department meanwhile disagreed with painting slogans or political statements on public roads.
“My suggestion would be, if you wanted to paint a slogan or some kind of a political statement, do that on private property. You do that on the wall of your house, you know, make a mural,” Swiney said Wednesday, reported Public Radio Tulsa.
“It’s really not appropriate and it’s not allowed to put it on the street surface.”
The mayor’s chief of staff, Jack Blair, said that while its removal “won’t be popular,” he didn’t see any other alternatives “from a legal perspective.”
It is not yet clear when the mural will be removed.