By Associated Press
Kieran Mullen, 60, a college professor from Norman, Okla., held a sign that read “Black Lives Matter” and “Dump Trump.”
“I just thought it was important for people to see there are Oklahomans that have a different point of view,” Mullen said of his state, which overwhelmingly supported Trump in 2016.
Brian Bernard, 54, a retired information technology worker from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, sported a Trump 2020 hat as he took a break from riding his bicycle around downtown. Next to him was a woman selling Trump T-shirts and hats, flying a “Keep America Great Again” flag. Her shirt said, “Impeach this,” with an image of Trump extending his middle fingers.
“Since the media won’t do it, it’s up to us to show our support,” said Bernard, who drove nine hours to Tulsa for his second Trump rally.
Bernard said he wasn’t concerned about catching the coronavirus at the event and doesn’t believe it’s “anything worse than the flu.”
Across the street, armed, uniformed highway patrol troopers milled about a staging area in a bank parking lot with dozens of uniformed National Guard troops.
Tulsa has seen cases of COVID-19 spike in the past week, and the local health department director asked that the rally be postponed. But Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt said it would be safe. The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Friday denied a request that everyone attending the indoor rally wear a mask, and few in the crowd outside Saturday were wearing them.
The Trump campaign said six staff members helping prepare for the event tested positive for COVID-19. They were following “quarantine procedures” and wouldn’t attend the rally, said Tim Murtaugh, the campaign’s communications director.
Inside the barriers, the campaign was handing out masks and said hand sanitizer also would be distributed and that participants would undergo a temperature check. But there was no requirement that participants use the masks.
Teams of people wearing goggles, masks, gloves and blue gowns were checking the temperatures of those entering the rally area. Those who entered the secured area were given disposable masks, which most people wore as they went through the temperature check. Some took them off after the check.
The rally originally was planned for Friday, but was moved after complaints that it coincided with Juneteenth, which marks the end of slavery in the U.S., and in a city that was the site of a 1921 race-related massacre, when a white mob attacked Black people, leaving as many as 300 people dead.
Stitt joined Vice President Mike Pence for a meeting Saturday with Black leaders from Tulsa’s Greenwood District, the area once known as “Black Wall Street” where the 1921 attack occurred. Stitt initially invited Trump to tour the area, but said, “We talked to the African American community and they said it would not be a good idea, so we asked the president not to do that.”
Associated Press reporters Ellen Knickmeyer in Tulsa, Ken Miller in Oklahoma City, Sara Burnett in Chicago, Adam Kealoha Causey in Dallas and Grant Schulte in Omaha, Nebraska, contributed to this report.