Hours before a predicted historic winter storm is set to hit Tulsa, Okla., the City of Tulsa and members of the Tulsa Fire Department descended on the well-known Maybelle Encampment to uproot the unsuspecting community. When The Black Wall Street Times arrived on scene, city grappling trucks were nearly done removing a large pile of donated chopped wood from the edge of the camp.
The Maybelle Camp spans the width of the interstate that shelters from above. The city has historically taken a “keep ‘em moving” approach with respect to policy that affects unhoused Tulsans. But the Maybelle Camp is tucked away off the Northwest edge of downtown and has drawn more attention as news of the weather began circulating.
After dusk, city employees entered the camp to inform residents they were to clear the street immediately. The community stretched across the entire area with several established residences. Based on an embroidered logo, we believe the man in charge to have been a Tulsa deputy fire marshal.
The fire marshal’s crew claimed they were at the camp due to fire hazard concerns and would be removing their donated stockpile of wood.
In times of inclement weather, organizations and people throughout the country rally for community outreach to their unhoused population. It is an unfortunate reality that many unhoused Tulsans suffer from some type of mental illness or substance abuse disorder that may contribute to their denial of services or shelter. Many also choose to stay with their belongings out of fear of the city removing their homes or theft.
That fear became a reality tonight. After several days of organizations transporting folks to reserved hotel rooms and shelters, only a few people were left in the community. Those who remained continued to use the donated firewood to stay warm. The fires were not burning out in the open. There were four covered fire pits that the community used for warmth. They were in good repair and being used safely.
While supporting on scene, we discovered who we believe to be the deputy fire marshal rummaging through an opened tent. When asked what he was doing, he asserted he was removing firewood. He then demanded for us and others to step back 10 ft. before threatening to have us arrested – first for obstruction, then standing in the road and, finally, for jaywalking.
This is a developing story.