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Black Wall Street Gallery vandalized in New York City on Oklahoma massacre centennial

The gallery, named after the affluent Black neighborhood in Tulsa that was burned to the ground, was defaced with white paint on the anniversary of the 1921 race riot.

A New York City gallery that was founded to pay tribute to the 1921 Oklahoma race massacre was vandalized multiple times this week — including on May 31, the deadly event's 100-year anniversary.

At a press conference on Thursday, the owner of the Black Wall Street Gallery said its logo was smeared with white paint, which was discovered by a security guard on Monday morning. The next day, graffiti was discovered on a window.

"We are neither shocked nor surprised that merely three days after opening on 26 Mercer Street, in celebration of our ancestors, that we would find a literal whitewashing of Black Wall Street on our front window," owner and director Ricco Wright said on Thursday.

In a Facebook post, the gallery said the New York Police Department initially claimed that the incident did not constitute hate speech despite the fact that this occurred on the centennial anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

"So now I stand before you today to not only denounce the hate crime, but also to say to the NYPD, 'Let's hurry and deem this what it is and let's understand the variance of hate that exists around us, and to understand it doesn't take a noose hanging on a door to realize something's hate,'" Wright said Thursday.

The NYPD did not respond to NBC News' request for comment on the gallery's allegations against them, but Jeffrey Maddrey, NYPD Chief of Community Affairs Bureau, said Thursday that they were actively investigating the incident as a potential hate crime.

"I know hate when I see it," Maddrey said. "And what happened here was all of that."

In a statement, the NYPD shared details of two ongoing police investigations into two incidents of vandalism reported at the gallery on May 31 and June 1 and noted that the Hate Crimes Task Force was notified.

On Friday, the NYPD released surveillance video showing a suspect approaching the window of the gallery after 5 a.m. on Monday and smearing paint across the glass.

The unidentified suspect "approached and fled on foot from the north. The investigation by the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is ongoing," the NYPD said, asking for the public's assistance in identifying the vandal, who is "sought in connection with criminal mischief."

During the 1921 riot in Tulsa, Oklahoma, hundreds of people were killed by white mobs as they burned to the ground dozens of blocks of what was then one of the region's most affluent Black neighborhoods, Greenwood — which came to be known as Black Wall Street.

In 2020, several survivors of the massacre — all over 100 years old — filed a lawsuit against city, state and other authorities seeking damages.

One of the centenarian survivors experiences "flashbacks of Black bodies that were stacked up on the streets as her neighborhood was burning, causing her to constantly relive the terror," the suit said.

Earlier this week, just hours after the New York City gallery first discovered the vandalism, President Joe Biden became the first sitting president to visit Tulsa on the riot anniversary.

"The only way to build common ground is to truly repair and to rebuild. I come here to help fill the silence because in silence wounds deepen," the president said Monday.

Wright said the Black Wall Street Gallery will be open in New York City's SoHo neighborhood until Juneteenth, or June 19th, the holiday marking the end of slavery in the U.S. when military leaders occupying Galveston, Texas, informed the last enslaved Americans of their freedom.