RACIALLY MOTIVATED ATTACKS LEAD TO ARRESTS, CONFESSIONS AND CHARGES OF HATE CRIMES FOR TULSA SHOOTERS
TULSA, OK. – Over the weekend of Friday, April 6, a series of shootings in Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Greenwood area once again raised concerns over escalating racial tensions across the state. The shooter was described as a white male driving a light-colored pick-up truck; his targets were six African Americans from North Tulsa’s predominantly minority neighborhood which, as it happens, was also the central location of what is now known as ‘The Tulsa Race Riots’ in which racist Tulsa whites massacred blacks with impunity – a massacre that took place almost a century ago, but still remains fresh in the minds of many Tulsans.
Of the six victims, only three have died of their injuries. And while local news media and Tulsa’s Mayor Dewey struggled to down-playing the possibility that the shooting spree was racially motivated, the killers have been charged with a racially-motivated hate crime.
Over the last year, people in the area have noticed a marked increase in racially motivated criminality and intimidation. As one white Phoenix street resident who asked to remain anonymous stated, “members of the Klan were squatting in a big run-down house on my street for months.” A local Greenwood business proprietor also reported that members of the Ku Klux Klan had made a show of their presence when an entire KKK family began frequenting his shop wearing Klan t-shirts.
Another young resident, a black man identifying himself as Leonard, has been active in the North Tulsa black community and Tulsa labor movement and told OWM that, a few months ago “a man in a light colored pick up pulled up to my house and started shouting ni***r at me over and over.” Other activists from Occupy Tulsa have consistently reported similar incidents. It appears to be no coincidences that Tulsa’s progressive activists and leftist participants in Occupy began receiving harassing letters signed “United White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.” These incidents began to increase with frequency after so-called R3 activists (supporters of the Ron Paul campaign) with ties to Oklahoma’s John Birch Society and fringe elements of the Tea Party began stacking meetings of Occupy in Oklahoma with their people. Other left-wing organizations, such as the Tulsa chapter of the Industrial Workers of the World have reported R3 activists and John Birch Society members infiltrating and disrupting their meetings for several months.
The racist challenge, seemingly driven by the fringe elements of the Tea Party in Oklahoma under the guidance of John Birch Society and Ku Klux Klan, has been met by an even more powerful show of black-white solidarity, driven primarily by progressive leaders in the labor movement. One of these labor leaders, who has requested to remain anonymous, claims that independent researchers working closely with the labor movement have uncovered ties to the several racist organizations from American Renaissance and KKK, fringe extremists in the Tea Party, and the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee, which is led by key figures of the John Birch Society. One John Birch Society member, Oklahoma State Senator Brogdon, illustrated how thoroughly extremist groups have penetrated Oklahoma’s state government when he advocated the formation of a Tea Party militia calling itself, The Oklahoma Defense Force. The so-called Defense Force is actually comprised of a militia group previously known as the Oklahoma Constitutional Militia with members holding positions in various white nationalists groups and other right-wing extremist organizations.
Across the state, white-supremacist organizations have been making their presence known with increasing audacity. In several small towns, racist groups have been tossing stones wrapped in letters signed by the UWKKK. In Oklahoma City, the American Renaissance neo-Nazi organization has left copies of its newsletter at several businesses owned by non-whites. In other parts of the state, neo-Nazi organizations, such as the National Socialist Movement have been increasingly active after leading out-of-state NSM members took up residence in Oklahoma. In an atmosphere of heightened tensions, the Tulsa police are taking pro-active measures to apprehend the perpetrators of the most recent series of shooting attacks, but many have lost confidence in police efforts due to the consistent presence of ultra-right elements in and around law enforcement circles.
At present, labor leaders, community organizers and civil rights activists are calling for public meetings to address these circumstances and are hopeful that police and community activists can diffuse mounting tensions. Racial issues continue to plague Oklahoma, especially since the intensification of right-wing anti-Obama rhetoric, many are recognizing the need for putting labor at the forefront of the fight. Tulsa’s newly formed Labor Policy Institute has also joined in the effort by publishing a useful book called, Understanding Racism: What it is and How to Fight It.
The confessed shooters, Jake England and Alvin Watts, have been charged with murder as well as hate crimes. But regardless of whether or not the perpetrators have been caught, it is clear that the struggle against hate in America has developed a critical new front in Tulsa, Oklahoma – a struggle in which labor continues to play a critical role in uniting blacks and whites against racism and the senseless violence it perpetuates.