TULSA, Okla. — President Donald Trump is seeking to tie the destruction of monuments and statues around the country to Democratic leaders, including his likely rival in the presidential election, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Speaking to supporters in Tulsa, Trump says “the choice in 2020 is very simple. Do you want to bow before the left-wing mob or do you want to stand up tall and proud as Americans?”
Statues have been destroyed in numerous cities amid continuing anti-racism demonstrations following the May 25 police killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd, the Black man who died in police custody.
The statues targeted included a bust of Ulysses Grant, who was the U.S. president after he was the general who finally beat the Confederates and ended the Civil War. Also torn down in a San Francisco park was a statue of Francis Scott Key, who wrote the “Star Spangled Banner.” Key owned slaves.
Trump says: “Biden remains silent in his basement in the face of this brutal assault on our nation and the values of our nation. Joe Biden has surrendered to his party and to the left-wing mob.”
Trump returned to the rally stage Saturday night only to find the venue about two-thirds full, a surprising and undoubtedly disappointing turn of events for a politician who values crowd size.
The president launched his first rally in 110 days amid the coronavirus pandemic. Empty seats could be seen throughout the upper deck as Trump seemingly blamed protesters, saying “we had some very bad people outside that were doing bad things.” The lower deck was full, except for an area behind the television cameras where the view of the stage was blocked.
The vast majority of those in attendance bucked the guidance of health care experts and did not wear a mask, following the lead of a president who has insisted on not wearing a mask in public.
Trump applauded those in attendance as warriors. His campaign has planned for Trump to also speak at an outdoor venue before going inside the arena, but that event was canceled.
A memorial to Black Wall Street in the Greenwood District of Tulsa was covered with tarp by residents who say they don’t want it used as a photo opportunity by the Trump administration as the president held the campaign rally nearby.
The tarp was placed following a news conference that included Tiffany Crutcher, the twin sister of Terence Crutcher, a Black man killed by a Tulsa police officer in 2016.
“This is not a photo op, that’s not what this is,” said Nehemiah Frank, editor of the online Black Wall Street Times in Tulsa, in a video posted following the news conference which called for the campaign rally to be canceled and for peaceful protests.
“This is a place to come pay respects to people that died a horrible murder from racism,” Frank said as the video showed signs attached to the blue tarp, including one reading “This is sacred ground, not a photo op.”
The Greenwood District was the site of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre in which Black-owned businesses were burned and an estimated 300 people were killed.
Trump’s campaign abruptly canceled an outdoor campaign rally that had been scheduled in downtown Tulsa.
The campaign said Trump and Vice President Mike Pence would only appear at the scheduled indoor event at the BOK Center. No reason was given for the cancellation of the outdoor rally right outside the venue. Images posted on social media showed few people in the outdoor area.
Thousands of Trump supporters and protesters gathered on the streets despite concerns about the coronavirus and fears that the politically charged environment could lead to violent conflicts. Many demonstrators appeared on behalf of the Black Lives Matter movement to protest the recent deaths of Black men in police custody.
Tulsa police said they arrested a woman who was inside a secure area outside an arena that hosted Trump’s first campaign rally during the coronavirus pandemic.
The woman was seen Saturday on live video sitting cross-legged on the ground in peaceful protest when officers pulled her away by the arms and later put her in handcuffs. She said her name was Sheila Buck and that she was from Tulsa.
As officers put handcuffed her, Buck said they were hurting her and told them to stop. She was wearing a T-shirt that said “I Can’t Breathe” — the last words of Floyd, whose death has inspired a global push for racial justice.
Buck said she had a ticket to the Trump rally and was told she was being arrested for trespassing. She said she was not part of any organized group.
Police said in a news release the officers tried for several minutes to talk Buck into leaving and that she was taken into custody for obstruction after police were asked by the Trump campaign to remove her from the area.
“Ms. Buck was in an area that is considered a private event area and the event organizer, in this case the Trump campaign, can have people removed at their discretion,” according to the release, which said officers remove people “only at the direction of campaign staff.”