Below capacity crowd for Trump during Oklahoma rally, campaign blames protests

National

TULSA, Okla. (KFOR) – For the first time in more than three months, President Donald Trump held an in-person campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

On Saturday, President Trump held his first in-person campaign rally since early March over concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

“The silent majority is stronger than ever before,” Trump said.

Trump says during his first term, he has lowered taxes, cut regulations, and made countries pay their fair share. During his speech, he says that the United States is the superpower of the world.

“No president has done more in the first three and a half years than the Trump administration,” he said.

Even though the coronavirus pandemic is still present across the globe, Trump says that he believes schools need to open in the fall.

Trump took a few shots at Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, saying that he criticized Trump when he closed the border to China when the novel coronavirus began spreading across the globe. He said Biden “is always on the wrong side of history.”

He said that now is the time to “get back to work.”

When it comes to schools, Trump says he is “pro-choice.”

“We will revitalize our cities and we will build gleaming new roads, bridges, tunnels and airports all across our land. We will enact new trade deals that result in more products proudly stand with that beautiful phrase ‘Made in the USA,” Trump said. “We have so many plants coming in to Michigan and so many other states. We have car plants coming in that would have never come if I wasn’t president, would have never come. We will become the world’s premier pharmacy drug store and medical manufacturer, that’s already started. We’re bringing it back. We will keep America out of foolish, stupid, ridiculous foreign wars. We will never hesitate to kill America’s terrorist enemies.”

Trump also said that America has captured 100% of the ISIS caliphate since he took over as president.

During his rally, Trump spoke about protesters and racial injustice.

He also spoke about the NFL’s recent decision regarding the kneeling during the National Anthem.

“We will never kneel to our National Anthem or our great American flag. We will stand proud and we will stand tall,” Trump said.

For much of his speech, Trump focused on protests across the United States.

Trump argued that burning the American flag should result in a one year prison sentence, even though the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that burning the flag is protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Trump added that he has done a lot for the black community, saying that his policies have helped with racial injustice across the country.

During the speech, he called protesters outside of the arena “thugs,” and said that he will continue to fight for Americans’ right to bear arms.

Although officials said almost a million Americans requested tickets to President Trump’s rally, there were many empty seats at the BOK Center in Tulsa.

The BOK Center holds almost 20,000 people, and there had been plans to move overflow crowds to the nearby Cox Center and an outdoor arena.

However, campaign organizers canceled all of the outdoor events on Saturday evening because of a lack of crowds.

Initially, officials with the administration said almost 1 million people requested tickets for the rally. Although the BOK Center is only set to hold almost 20,000 people, organizers say they were preparing an overflow area at the Cox Center and an outdoor area for other supporters who couldn’t get into the event.

As the minutes ticked down to the arrival of the president, officials announced that they were canceling the outdoor events due to a lack of crowds.

Officials announced that all outdoor speeches by the president and vice president have been canceled. KFOR crews say there are no large crowds in the ‘Outdoor Experience’ area where the speeches were to take place. In fact, the outdoor stage is being dismantled prior to the president’s arrival to the downtown area.

Inside the BOK Center, there were many empty seats.

The Trump Campaign sent this statement:

“President Trump is rallying in Tulsa with thousands of energetic supporters, a stark contrast to the sleepy campaign being run by Joe Biden from his basement in Delaware. Sadly, protestors interfered with supporters, even blocking access to the metal detectors, which prevented people from entering the rally. Radical protestors, coupled with a relentless onslaught from the media, attempted to frighten off the President’s supporters. We are proud of the thousands who stuck it out.”

Tim Murtaugh-Trump Campaign Spokesman

KFOR reporters on scene did not witness any conflict between protesters and attendees.

“We had a bunch of maniacs come and attack our city,” Trump said.

One protester was arrested on Saturday morning after she was seen wearing an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt.

“The televised arrest of a Tulsa woman, granted ticketed access to the area surrounding the BOK Center shocked and upset many viewers. Our office immediately received outreach from people on the ground in Tulsa, and across the world. We share their outrage. While Tulsa Police say they were following orders from the presidential campaign to remove Sheila Buck, and news reports indicate that request was made because of her shirt (a black t-shirt depicting the outline of a person kneeling on another’s neck with the text I Can’t Breathe), the scene was one that felt familiar to those who have encountered Tulsa Police previously or watched their aggressive response to protests over the last several weeks.

The rest of Ms. Buck’s day included several hours in custody before being booked, a misdemeanor charge that could carry up to a $500 fine and/or 1 year in jail, and a bond amount of $500 to secure her freedom. This arbitrary process is inconvenient at best, but for many Tulsans, it leads to weeks or months, sometimes years, of pre-trial incarceration, public repercussions that can include loss of job or housing or custody, and all without a trial or conviction. 

While we hope people will continue to report violations of civil rights and liberties at protests today and in the future, we also hope the world watching Tulsa will acknowledge Oklahoma is second in the world in the rate of incarceration and has led the nation in per capita incarceration of Black people since 2014. Our criminal legal system is designed to punish and to thwart the efforts of people who give voice to the opposition of the status quo. It is not just, and it is not fair. 

Our entire team hopes Ms. Buck is able to sleep in her own bed tonight, and that the county will see the public scrutiny and drop all charges with urgency. We know for many others, there will be no such luck. 

While the President and Vice President are in Oklahoma, we continue to monitor how law enforcement engages with protesters through our civil liberties hotline, (405) 524-8511, and through footage submitted from the front lines on our mobile justice app. We are aware that the law enforcement presence on the ground in Tulsa will not only include police presence but also members of the National Guard and Secret Service. We acknowledge a militarized law enforcement presence can escalate harm or threat of harm to protesters. We continue to commit ourselves to holding law enforcement and the elected officials who direct them accountable for their actions.”

Nicole McAfee, Director of Policy and Advocacy for the ACLU of Oklahoma

The had planned to hold the rally in Tulsa on June 19 immediately drew criticism from activists across the country for being ‘tone deaf.’

“This isn’t just a wink to white supremacists- he’s throwing them a welcome home party,” California Sen. Kamala Harris tweeted after the announcement.

“To choose the date, to come to Tulsa, is totally disrespectful and a slap in the face to even happen,” said Sherry Gamble Smith, president of Tulsa’s Black Wall Street Chamber of Commerce.

June 19 is known as Juneteenth, a holiday that commemorates the end of slavery across the United States.

Even though the Emancipation Proclamation became official on Jan. 1, 1863, slaves in parts of Texas were not officially freed until June 19, 1865 when Union soldiers landed in Galveston and enforced the order.

Juneteenth holds a special meaning in Tulsa, a city that has been rocked by racial unrest and violence.

Tulsa Race Massacre
Tulsa Race Massacre

The Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma was once called “Black Wall Street,” a 35-block radius in the segregated community thriving with hundreds of black-owned businesses.

But, on June 1, 1921, the entire area was burned down after a black man was accused of assaulting a white woman.

White residents attacked the community, killing hundreds of black residents and injuring 800 others.

Despite it being one of the worst instances of racial violence in the United States, the massacre was mostly swept under the rug.

US President Donald Trump on June 16, 2020. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)
US President Donald Trump on June 16, 2020. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)

Following the criticism, Trump announced that he was rescheduling the rally to June 20 “out of respect” for Juneteenth.

“We had previously scheduled our #MAGA Rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for June 19th — a big deal,” Trump tweeted. “Unfortunately, however, this would fall on the Juneteenth Holiday. Many of my African American friends and supporters have reached out to suggest that we consider changing the date out of respect for this Holiday, and in observance of this important occasion and all that it represents. I have therefore decided to move our rally to Saturday, June 20th, in order to honor their requests.”

Even though the date was moved, the campaign couldn’t escape additional criticism about the risk of spreading COVID-19 in a state that has seen a sudden increase in cases.

Trump had previously stated that around 1 million people had signed up to attend the rally, even though the BOK Center in Tulsa can only hold 20,000 attendees.

The BOK Center had previously canceled events through the end of July to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The Trump campaign, in recognition of the risk, has tried to protect itself from lawsuits by requiring attendees to sign a liability waiver.

“By clicking register below, you are acknowledging that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present,” the campaign advised those signing up for the rally. “By attending the Rally, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and agree not to hold Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.’ liable for illness or injury.”

On Saturday afternoon, officials with the Trump administration announced that six aides with the campaign who were setting up the Tulsa rally tested positive for COVID-19.

“Six members of the advance team tested positive out of hundreds of tests performed, and quarantine procedures were immediately implemented,” Tim Murtaugh, the campaign communications director said in a statement. “No COVID-positive staffers or anyone in immediate contact will be at today’s rally or near attendees and elected officials.”

Leaders with the Oklahoma Republican Party said the Trump campaign will be checking the temperature of attendees at the door, provide optional masks for everyone to use, and have hand sanitizer available.

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