Events In Charlottesville Reverberate With OK's Violent Racial History

Wednesday, August 16th 2017, 6:05 am
By: Grant Hermes

Images of the Oklahoma 46 flag at that white supremacy rally have begun surfacing online. Those photos, coinciding with the recently foiled bomb plot downtown, are raising new questions about hatred here in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma, unfortunately, is no stranger to homegrown extremist violence. The state's history is littered with racial and anti-government violence. An original Oklahoma flag, with the red background sporting a white star and blue 46, was spotted in the crowd during last weekend's white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. It's a reminder that Oklahoma's history has been marred by racial violence, predominantly spread by the Klu Klux Klan.

8/15/17 Related Story: Trump On Charlottesville: 'I Think There’s Blame On Both Sides'

“Around 1920 is when they spread from Texas to Oklahoma,” said Larry O’Dell of the Oklahoma Historical Society. The KKK especially and by the mid-20’s, they were huge in Oklahoma.”

In the Klan hub of Tulsa, racism boiled over in 1921 with the infamous race riot that left thousands arrested, hundreds injured, and 39 dead. Racial violence also included nearly 150 lynching's between 1885 and 1930. Thirty more black Americans would be lynched before it was officially outlawed. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, only one white supremacy group still exists in Oklahoma, the Aryan Brotherhood.

Then there's the anti-government extremism that fueled Oklahoma's City's darkest day. That same attack served as the inspiration of the recently foiled bomb plot of 23-year-old Jerry Varnell. Varnell told undercover FBI agents he wanted to harm government officials and he held a 3-percenter mentality, a common phrase among anti-government groups and militias. According to the SPLC, there are nine active anti-government groups at work, including the statewide 3% United Patriots, which is labeled a militia.

Varnell did not have any specific ties to a single group but his plot is a reminder extremism is still alive and well in Oklahoma.