Calls for reparations and remembrance of the uncountable people killed during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre echoed off downtown buildings Wednesday afternoon as more than a dozen people gathered at City Hall.

“The blood of the slain of Greenwood, that is still to this day a crime scene,” the Rev. Robert Turner said through a bullhorn. “The Greenwood that you shop in, the Greenwood you go to baseball games to watch, it is a crime scene.”

Turner led more than a dozen demonstrators from City Hall to Vernon AME Church in the Greenwood District, where he is the pastor. Their demands were simple: reparations and repentance.

On May 31 and June 1, 1921, mobs of white rioters attacked Tulsa’s black residents, churches, businesses and homes, carrying out the attack by ground and, by a number of accounts, by air. The attack destroyed more than 35 blocks of the district.

Turner said it was the first instance of bombs being dropped on an American city.

Death certificates have been found for 37 people — 25 African American and 12 white residents — killed in the massacre, but most authorities think the actual number of deaths was higher.

Next May will mark the centennial of the massacre.

“There was no insurance claim that was honored after the massacre; there was nothing done,” Turner said. “In fact, there were laws passed by this City Council … to keep us from rebuilding.”

Demonstrators carried signs stating “Remember 1921,” “Reparations now” and “I am a man.”

Turner expressed frustration toward bureaucracy, with seemingly endless meetings and committees.

The demonstrations occurred during efforts to uncover more about one of the city’s oldest wounds. Twice this week, researchers surveyed Oaklawn Cemetery in search of unmarked graves.

Turner said he will return to City Hall for another demonstration at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. He said all are welcome to participate.

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​Harrison Grimwood


Twitter: @grimwood_hmg

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