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19 bodies reburied amid protests in search for Tulsa victims

July 31, 2021 GMT
In this aerial photo, a mass grave is re-filled with dirt after a small ceremony at Oaklawn Cemetery, Friday, July 30, 2021, in Tulsa, Okla. The mass grave was discovered while searching for victims of the Tulsa Race Massacre. (Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP)
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In this aerial photo, a mass grave is re-filled with dirt after a small ceremony at Oaklawn Cemetery, Friday, July 30, 2021, in Tulsa, Okla. The mass grave was discovered while searching for victims of the Tulsa Race Massacre. (Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP)
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In this aerial photo, a mass grave is re-filled with dirt after a small ceremony at Oaklawn Cemetery, Friday, July 30, 2021, in Tulsa, Okla. The mass grave was discovered while searching for victims of the Tulsa Race Massacre. (Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP)

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — The bodies of 19 people exhumed from a Tulsa cemetery during a search for victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre were reburied during a closed ceremony, 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 is a descendant of a massacre victim, told KTUL-TV.

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 Rep. Regina Goodwin told KJRH-TV.

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

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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.

Some protesters also wanted the reburial postponed, but city spokesperson Michelle Brooks told the Tulsa World that 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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For more AP coverage of the Tulsa Race Massacre anniversary, go to https://apnews.com/hub/tulsa-race-massacre