Several hundred armed Black men and women dressed in fatigues held a march downtown Saturday afternoon, paying tribute to ancestors who were killed in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and vowing that such an event will never happen again.
“This is the strongest Black presence that Tulsa has ever seen,” an organizer said through a megaphone just outside ONEOK Field. “White Tulsa will never forget this day.
“Black Tulsa has no reason to be afraid, ever again.”
The march was organized by the Elmer Geronimo Pratt Gun Club of Central Texas, but it also included members of the New Black Panther Party and others.
Most members wore all-black fatigues, face coverings and sunglasses, and carried rifles as they chanted slogans and sang while marching from Ben Hill Community Center, 210 E. Latimer Place, south through downtown Tulsa to just south of the baseball park.
Among the chants were “Stand up, Black man, Stand up, Black woman,” and “Black power! Whose streets? Our streets!”
Several hundred others also joined the group, and many motorists passing by honked their horns and raised their fists in support.
There were no apparent counter-protestors.
As organizers led the group across various city streets, at least two members with rifles stopped traffic on either side to allow marchers to pass through intersections safely.
Organizers also made sure stragglers in the group and other bystanders finished crossing the streets safely.
The march began about 3:45 p.m. before marchers returned to the community center about 5:30 p.m. to take a break, before again marching north on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Participants dispersed about 7 p.m. after walking to Pine Street then returning to the community center.
“For the most part,” said Toni Frank, communications officer for the Elmer Geronimo Pratt Gun Club, “the march went fine in commemorating our ancestors … for our Second Amendment rights.”
He said he thought the group was “stopped a little soon” as they approached Greenwood Avenue downtown, but “I think we made our point and I’ll live with that.”
The marchers were stopped by police outside the Black Wall Street Legacy Festival, which was also going on at the same time in the Greenwood District. Police said festival organizers did not want open carry of weapons at that permitted event, which continues 1-8:30 p.m. Sunday.
Other organizers at the march declined to speak with reporters and one with a megaphone also encouraged others to do the same.
“We ain’t here to do an interview,” the organizer said at the community center. “We’re asking for … reparations and our Second Amendment right to bear arms.
“We didn’t come here to play games with nobody.”
One of the most intense confrontations was when a Tulsa police vehicle showed up and stopped at an intersection right in front of marchers as they were taking a break at the community center.
“Anybody call for pork?” one organizer with a megaphone said, gesturing toward the parked officer.
“Nobody called 911. Nobody called 911,” he said.
The officer after a few minutes eventually drove off.
“You can go somewhere else and harass someone else,” the organizer said.
Don Spencer, president of the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association, sent a statement about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre to the Tulsa World prior to Saturday’s event.
“Citizens that were attacked should have never hesitated to defend themselves and their property, and the ability to use weapons could have been a deterrent to such a vicious unlawful attack,” the statement said.
“A right is a right and the State of Oklahoma should NEVER participate in its infringement, even if citizens or government are uncomfortable when it is exercised.
“Every person should be taught the history of the 1921 riot and massacre, so that all understand that self-defense is moral and imperative in a civil society, as we continue to heal and stop any motive from such a horrific event from ever taking place again.”
Frank said Spencer was not invited to Saturday’s event because his group is a “known racist group trying to incite violence.”
“I have personally spent 30 minutes trying to keep people away from that man so he did not incite violence on himself to cause a problem. He is not our friend. We don’t expect him to be our friend.”
Frank said of Spencer’s statement: “He did the bare minimum. Cool.”
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