Juneteenth Schedule Is Nixed
TULSA—After the leader of the state Democratic Party said she considered the initially Juneteenth planned Trump campaign rally to be an insult to Blacks, the event was rescheduled for Saturday, June 20.
But Mayor B.T. Bynum, a Republican, said the rally was not welcome in Tulsa. Period.
“It feels like an insult….like a deliberate insult at worst and insensitive, unthinking and calculated at best,’’ said Alicia Andrews, chairman of the Oklahoma Democratic Party.
She said she and others were especially incensed that President Donald J. Trump had planned to visit Tulsa on June 19, which is Juneteenth Day.
Juneteenth Day is a day of celebration of the end of slavery.
“The fact that he chose that day, the fact that he will be a mile and a half from Greenwood feels deliberate,” she said. “The fact that his campaign hasn’t reached out to any of our community leaders of color,” the state Democratic Party said.
“So, even if he wanted to pretend that this was in recognition or commemoration of [Juneteenth], how about you reach out to some of our African-American leaders in the community? And he has not done that.
She said she was also worried about the budget affect the visit might have on the city and state, because security and logistical support must be provided.
Last week, the president announced that he had chosen Tulsa to resume rallies.
He has not held one since early March because of the novel coronavirus. The Trump campaign announced Thursday that the rally will be held at the BOK Center in downtown Tulsa.
Mrs. Andrews, who is Black, said President Trump’s actions after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police have been “dismal” and that she hopes he doesn’t talk about race in his remarks in Tulsa.
“I’d rather he just not bring it up,” she said.
The president using Floyd’s name two weeks ago while talking about the economy was “so hurtful, so inappropriate,” she said.
“I don’t believe the president has views on race,” Mrs. Andrews said.
“I don’t believe the president gives it any real thought. I think that he mentions it when someone tells him, but his views are out-of-touch, tone deaf, insensitive and regressive.”
Gov. Kevin Stitt and other Republicans last week hailed the president’s decision to come to Oklahoma.
In a statement, Gov. Stitt did not mention Juneteenth.
Instead, he and Mr. Trump noted Oklahoma’s success in reopening the economy amid the spread of the coronavirus.
Some have questioned the wisdom of holding an event that will draw thousands of people while the virus is still spreading.
Oklahoma has been experiencing an uptick in cases, though hospitalizations and the rate of positive cases have not spiked this week.
When individuals register for the rally, they agree to assume all risks regarding COVID-19 and not hold the arena or the Trump campaign liable.
U.S. Sen. James Lankford (Rep., Okla.), who has tried in recent years to raise awareness of the Tulsa race massacre and has worked with residents of north Tulsa on economic development and racial reconciliation, said Thursday that President Trump’s visit posed an opportunity to confront the problems.
“Oklahomans have had horrible events like the Tulsa race massacre and have raised incredible change agents like [civil rights activist] Clara Luper,” Sen. Lankford commented.
“Oklahoma, in the heart of the nation, is the right place to have a conversation about race and the future of our nation.”
Mrs. Andrews said there are Juneteenth activities planned in Tulsa and that she hopes people will focus on them, rather than the president’s visit.
“I, absolutely, think that there will be peaceful demonstrations outside of whatever venue that is chosen, she said. “And I hope that it stays safe.
“But what I hope happens on Friday, June 19th, 2020, is that people find a Juneteenth festival and celebrate Jubilee and not give very much attention to this distraction, this expensive distraction that is coming to town.’ ”
Since the day for the rally has been changed, Mayor Bynum has made it clear that the campaign event would not be held in Tulsa on any date.
On Tuesday, Mayor Bynum voiced concerns about President Trump holding the rally as the country continues to grapple with the pandemic.
Mayor Bynum stressed that the event was not his idea and that he learned about it only when officials from the rally venue contacted the city regarding police support.
But Mayor Bynum noted that despite his fears, he would not attempt to use the local civil emergency authority to block the event.
“Do I share anxiety about having a full house at the BOK Center? Of course,” he said.
“As someone who is cautious by nature, I don’t like to be the first to try anything. I would have loved some other city to have proven the safety of such an event already.”
The comments arrived as President Trump prepares to hold his first campaign rally in more than three months at the BOK Center in Tulsa, an arena with an audience capacity of about 19,000 people.
The rally is expected to take place on Saturday, even as some states, including Oklahoma, experience an uptick in daily cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
In anticipation of the event, some state and local officials have called on Mr. Trump’s campaign to consider postponing or relocating the event.
Pointing to a recent surge in cases, Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa County Department of Health, said Sunday that a packed indoor rally would produce a “huge risk” for the region.
“I’m concerned about our ability to protect anyone who attends a large, indoor event,” he said, “and I’m also concerned about our ability to ensure the president stays safe,” adding that he wished the president would postpone the event.
Gov. Stitt also told reporters on Monday that he had asked the Trump campaign to consider moving the rally to a venue outside to safely accommodate more guests.
Vice President Pence said Tuesday that the campaign is considering “outside activities” and a different venue for the upcoming rally. A campaign official told The Hill that the event will still take place inside the BOK Center, but said the campaign is also looking into other areas adjacent to the arena that would allow President Trump to “address even more people.”