Trump tweets threat ahead of rally

Pres­i­dent warns against dis­rup­tions dur­ing Tulsa event

Orlando Sentinel - - Nation & World - By An­nie Karni

WASHINGTON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump be­gan a hol­i­day ded­i­cated to the end of slav­ery by is­su­ing a thinly veiled threat against pro­test­ers who have been march­ing against sys­temic racism and may show up at his cam­paign rally Satur­day in Tulsa, Ok­la­homa, bunch­ing them with “loot­ers” and warn­ing that dis­rup­tions would not be tol­er­ated.

His tweet Fri­day morn­ing came on the June­teenth hol­i­day as many Amer­i­cans grap­ple with the coun­try’s racist his­tory.

“Any pro­test­ers, an­ar­chists, ag­i­ta­tors, loot­ers or lowlifes who are go­ing to Ok­la­homa please un­der­stand, you will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seat­tle, or Min­neapo­lis,” Trump wrote on Twit­ter. “It will be a much dif­fer­ent scene!”

In his tweet, Trump drew no dis­tinc­tion be­tween peace­ful pro­test­ers, whose right to as­sem­ble and speak out is pro­tected by the First Amend­ment, and vi­o­lent loot­ers, some of whom were re­spon­si­ble for van­dal­ism and fires that broke out dur­ing largely peace­ful demon­stra­tions across the coun­try ex­press­ing out­rage over the killing of Ge­orge Floyd last month in Min­neapo­lis.

The June­teenth hol­i­day cel­e­brates the end of slav­ery in the U.S. and has taken on added sig­nif­i­cance for many Amer­i­cans this year.

Kayleigh McE­nany, the White House press sec­re­tary, told re­porters Fri­day that the pres­i­dent did not mean to threaten peace­ful pro­test­ers. “What he was mean­ing are vi­o­lent pro­test­ers,” McE­nany said.

The Tulsa Po­lice De­part­ment said it would not com­ment on the pres­i­dent’s tweet. “We are al­low­ing cit­i­zens to ex­er­cise their First Amend­ment rights in a peace­ful man­ner,” a spokes­woman said.

Trump has com­plained that gover­nors and may­ors have been too soft in deal­ing with pro­test­ers in places like New York and Seat­tle, but he did not fol­low through on a threat to send in the mil­i­tary if state of­fi­cials did not quell the demon­stra­tions on their own.

The rally will mark Trump’s re­turn to the cam­paign trail af­ter the coro­n­avirus pan­demic de­prived him for three months of are­nas packed with die-hard fans that serve as the cor­ner­stone of his po­lit­i­cal brand.

His re­turn to cam­paign mode comes as the coun­try grap­ples with its his­tory of racial vi­o­lence — a legacy that is painfully sig­nif­i­cant in Tulsa, the site of a 1921 race mas­sacre, in which up to 300 peo­ple were killed and hun­dreds of homes and busi­nesses were de­stroyed in a black neigh­bor­hood.

In the neigh­bor­hood, known as “Black Wall

Street” before the mas­sacre, Tul­sans gath­ered Fri­day to cel­e­brate June­teenth. The words “Black Lives Mat­ter” had been painted across Green­wood Av­enue in yel­low block let­ters.

Trump’s cam­paign man­ager, Brad Parscale, told Fox News on Fri­day that those un­able to get into the arena are ex­pected to at­tend what he de­scribed as a “fes­ti­val” out­side where the pres­i­dent might also ap­pear.

Mean­while, Tulsa’s Repub­li­can mayor, G.T. Bynum, re­scinded a day-old cur­few he had im­posed for the area around the BOK Cen­ter ahead of the rally. The cur­few took ef­fect Thurs­day night and was sup­posed to re­main un­til Sun­day morn­ing.

Bynum said Fri­day that he got rid of the cur­few at the re­quest of the U.S. Se­cret Ser­vice. In his ex­ec­u­tive or­der es­tab­lish­ing the cur­few, Bynum said he was do­ing so at the re­quest of law en­force­ment who had in­tel­li­gence that that “in­di­vid­u­als from or­ga­nized groups who have been in­volved in destruc­tive and vi­o­lent be­hav­ior in other States are plan­ning to travel to the City of Tulsa for pur­poses of caus­ing un­rest in and around the rally.”

Bynum didn’t elab­o­rate as to which groups he meant and po­lice Capt. Richard Meu­len­berg de­clined to iden­tify any.

Bynum’s or­der said crowds of 100,000 or more were ex­pected in the area around the rally.

The city’s health di­rec­tor, Dr. Bruce Dart, has said he would like to see the rally post­poned, not­ing that large in­door gath­er­ings are par­tially to blame for the re­cent spread of the coro­n­avirus in Tulsa and Tulsa County.

The Trump cam­paign said it takes “safety se­ri­ously,” not­ing that or­ga­niz­ers are pro­vid­ing masks, hand san­i­tizer and do­ing tem­per­a­ture checks for all attendees.

The Ok­la­homa Supreme Court on Fri­day re­jected a re­quest to re­quire ev­ery­one at­tend­ing the rally to wear a face mask and main­tain so­cial dis­tanc­ing.

Trump orig­i­nally planned to hold his rally in Tulsa on Fri­day. But af­ter days of crit­i­cism over the idea of hold­ing a po­lit­i­cal rally on June­teenth dur­ing a na­tional uproar over racial in­jus­tice, the pres­i­dent agreed to post­pone the event by one day. This week he tried to turn the crit­i­cism on its head, say­ing he el­e­vated the hol­i­day’s sta­tus.

“I made June­teenth very fa­mous,” Trump said in an in­ter­view with The Wall Street Jour­nal, dis­cussing the con­tro­versy sur­round­ing his rally. “It’s ac­tu­ally an im­por­tant event, an im­por­tant time. But no­body had ever heard of it.”

In re­al­ity, it was his top cam­paign aides who were not aware of the sig­nif­i­cance of June 19, which has been cel­e­brated as June­teenth by African Amer­i­cans since the late 1800s.

SETH HER­ALD/GETTY-AFP

A sup­porter of Pres­i­dent Trump takes a selfie Fri­day in Tulsa, Ok­la­homa, where a re­elec­tion rally is planned Satur­day.

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