Black Tulsans call Trump rally plan ‘a slap in the face’

Black Tulsans call Trump rally plan ‘a slap in the face’

OKLAHOMA CITY — Black community and political leaders called on President Donald Trump to at least change the Juneteenth date for a rally kicking off his return to public campaigning, saying Thursday that plans for a rally on the day that marks the end of slavery in America come as a “slap in the face.”

Trump campaign officials discussed in advance the possible reaction to the Juneteenth date, but despite fierce blowback there are no plans to change it.

From Sen. Kamala Harris of California to Tulsa civic officials, black leaders said it was offensive for Trump to pick that day — June 19 — and that place — Tulsa, an Oklahoma city that in 1921 was the site of a fiery and orchestrated white-on-black killing spree.

“This isn’t just a wink to white supremacists — he’s throwing them a welcome home party,” Harris, a leading contender to be Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s running mate, tweeted of Trump’s rally plans.

“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, an organization named after the prosperous black community that white Oklahomans burned down in the 1921 attack.

At a minimum, Gamble Smith said, the campaign should “change it to Saturday the 20th, if they’re going to have it.”

Trump announced the rally plan Wednesday afternoon. It comes as his harsh law-and-order stance appears to fall increasingly out of sync with a growing concern over police abuse of African Americans after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Trump campaign officials defended the rally.

“As the party of Lincoln, Republicans are proud of the history of Juneteenth,” said Katrina Pierson, senior adviser to the Trump campaign. “President Trump has built a record of success for Black Americans, including unprecedented low unemployment prior to the global pandemic, all-time high funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and criminal justice reform.”

The Trump campaign was aware in advance that the date for the president’s return to rallies was Juneteenth, according to two campaign officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly about internal discussions and spoke on condition of anonymity.

When the date was discussed, it was noted that Biden had held a fundraiser a year ago on Juneteenth. Though choosing June 19 was not meant to be incendiary, some blowback was expected, the officials said. But the campaign was caught off guard by the intensity, particularly when some linked the selection to the 1921 massacre.

Scheduling the highly anticipated comeback rally in Oklahoma, a state Trump won easily in 2016, raised eyebrows.

The campaign picked Tulsa’s BOK Center, with a listed seat capacity of 19,199. The arena’s Facebook page shows organizers calling off shows there by country singer Alan Jackson and other performers into mid-July, citing the coronavirus pandemic.

Arena marketing director Meghan Blood said Thursday she didn’t know yet about any plans for social distancing or other coronavirus precautions for Trump’s rally, which would be one of the larger public gatherings in the U.S. at this stage of the outbreak.

Campaign officials said safety decisions would be made in co-ordination with local authorities. A disclaimer on the ticket registration website said attendees voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and agree not to hold the campaign liable for any illness.

The campaign officials said the Trump campaign picked Oklahoma because arrangements could be made quickly, for a variety of reasons: Oklahoma has a Republican, Trump-friendly governor; the state is not seeing huge numbers of coronavirus cases; and the arena was “turn-key” and could easily be opened for the rally. Moreover, the rally will be held up the turnpike from a district held by Rep. Kendra Horn, one of the Democrats the GOP feels is vulnerable this fall.

Campaign officials also wanted to hold the rally where they could all but guarantee a big crowd despite coronavirus concerns, according to the officials. Oklahoma is one of the most Republican states in the nation and Trump has not held a rally there as president, so it will likely deliver an enthusiastic audience eager to see him, the officials believed.

Tulsa, an oil centre along the Arkansas River, has had its own marches, viral videos and problematic police actions during this month’s unrest.

On Tuesday, Tulsa police released video and said they were investigating officers who handcuffed and arrested two black teenagers for jaywalking. Video of the June 4 incident showed officers pinned one of the two unidentified teens stomach-down on the ground.

“Get off me! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” one teen shouts in the police video.

“You can breathe just fine,” the officer replies.

On Monday, a Tulsa police major played down police shootings of African Americans nationally by telling a radio show that statistically, “we’re shooting African Americans about 24% less than we probably ought to be, based on the crimes being committed.”

And on Wednesday, the same day Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum welcomed news of Trump’s rally pick as evidence of the city’s progress against COVID-19, Bynum apologized for remarks about a 2016 police killing of an unarmed black man. Bynum had said the killing was “more about the really insidious nature of drug utilization than it is about race.”

Nationally, as research brings to light more about the 1921 massacre, Tulsa increasingly is associated with the rampage in which white Tulsans razed a thriving black business community, killing as many as 300 people. Long dismissed by generations of white Tulsans as a race “riot,” the May 31-June 1 events were marked this year by community memorials.

Oklahoma’s black Democratic Party chairwoman also condemned Trump’s rally plan. “A day set aside to commemorate the freedom of enslaved people must not be marred by the words or actions of a racist president,” Alicia Andrews said.

Community groups had earlier cancelled a main Tulsa Juneteenth celebration because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Some black Tulsans said they planned to turn out for public protests of Trump on that day. “There’s definitely going to be demonstrating,” Gamble Smith said.

—-

Lemire reported from New York City. Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report.

Ellen Knickmeyer And Jonathan Lemire, The Associated Press

Donald Trump

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Maskwacis reporting 37 active cases

Numbers current as of Oct. 19

Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, receive flu shot. Photo via Government of Alberta
COVID-19: One more death in central zone

Ponoka County on province’s watchlist

Photo submitted/ Millet In Bloom
Town of Millet declared Best Blooming Community

The Town of Millet is being recognized for their efforts to meet the challenges of 2020.

Many rural municipalities were concerned about a proposed reduction to their industrial revenues, but Alberta’s Municipal Affairs minister has come up with an alternative solution. (Photo contributed)
Province and rural municipalities agree on a plan to support Alberta’s energy industry

Creating new wells or pipelines would result in a three year ‘tax holiday’

Paved path to the accessible dock at Agur Lake Camp. Photo submitted/ Debbie Schneider.
B.C. Camp extremely grateful for a Calmar Business’ generous donation

B.C.’s only fully accessible campground floored by a Calmar Business’ generosity.

Conservative member of Parliament Pierre Poilievre speaks during a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on October 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals say Tory effort to set up COVID-19 committee will be a confidence matter

The Tories were originally proposing an ‘anticorruption’ committee

Alberta Premier Jason Kenny and government house leader Jason Nixon chat before the speech from the throne delivered in Edmonton, Alta., on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. Alberta politicians are to return to the legislature Tuesday with a plan to discuss up to 20 new bills — many of which are focused on the province’s economic recovery. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta legislature to resume Tuesday; focus to be on economic recovery

Opposition house leader Heather Sweet said the NDP will focus on holding Premier Jason Kenney

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

robbery
UPDATE: Suspect identified in early morning shooting

Rimbey RCMP had responded to a complaint of an armed robbery at the Bluffton City General Store

Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen (Alberta government photo)
Big boost for Alberta college agriculture research

The $2-million agreement to benefit Lethbridge College’s applied research team

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry into U.S., Canadian couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Employee Sophia Lovink shows off a bag of merchandise in Toronto on Thursday, June 11, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Canada gets C-average grade on 2nd year of cannabis legalization

Cannabis Council of Canada releases report card on federal government and legalization

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada-USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. Restrictions on non-essential travel between Canada and the United States are being extended until at least Nov. 21. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
Non-essential travel restrictions at Canada-U.S. border extended to at least Nov. 21

The restrictions do not apply to those providing essential services in either country

(The Canadian Perss)
Banff wolves have lower survival rate due to hunting, trapping outside park boundary

Researchers looked at 72 radio-collared wolves in the national park from 1987 to August 2019

Most Read