Great Britain

Tulsa race massacre: 19 bodies reinterred as protesters demand criminal investigation

The bodies of 19 people exhumed from an Oklahoma cemetery during a search for victims of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre were reburied in a closed ceremony on Friday, despite objections from protesters outside the cemetery.

“This is totally disgusting and disrespectful that those are our family members and we’re outside the gate instead of inside that gate where they are,” Celi Butler Davis, who said she was a descendant of a massacre victim, told KTUL-TV.

As many as 300 people were killed in Tulsa in 1921 when a white mob destroyed a prosperous neighbourhood known as Black Wall Street.

Others protesting Friday’s reburial called for a criminal investigation.

“The found remains – a skull with a bullet hole – that seems like you’re just beginning to get somewhere“ in investigating the deaths, state representative Regina Goodwin told KJRH-TV.

A forensic anthropologist, Phoebe Stubblefield, said a bullet was found with one set of remains that had trauma to the body, including to the head.

Stubblefield said none of the remains have been confirmed as massacre victims, although forensic and DNA evidence has been collected.

“We are not done, we have not stopped,” Stubblefield told the crowd, saying a public report on the findings is likely during the fall.

Graves public oversight committee chair J Kavin Ross views remains in a mass grave as they are reinterred at Oaklawn cemetery in Tulsa.
Graves public oversight committee chair J Kavin Ross views remains in a mass grave as they are reinterred at Oaklawn cemetery in Tulsa. Photograph: Mike Simons/AP

Some protesters also wanted the reburial postponed but a city spokeswoman told the Tulsa World an interment plan was required in order to receive approval to exhume the remains.

“All on-site forensic analysis, documentation and DNA sampling from the remains are complete, but the DNA matching with potential descendants could take years,” Brooks said.

“Work to identify descendants and establish a permanent memorial will proceed in the future,” Brooks said.

Searches of two more areas, a second cemetery and a park are planned.

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