A day ahead of his first rally in months, President Trump warned protesters and looters alike that if they come to Tulsa tomorrow, they “will not be treated” like they have been in cities that he’s criticized for not cracking down on unrest. “It will be a much different scene!” he wrote.
While Trump kept the threat vague, it’s not hard to figure out what he means. Over the past several weeks he’s criticized leaders in Seattle, Minneapolis, and New York for not doing enough to clamp down on protesters. Lumping protesters in with agitators and looters, who Trump has previously said should be shot, makes his meaning pretty obvious too.
Saturday’s rally, which was originally scheduled for Juneteenth but moved amid intense criticism, is shaping up to be a tense affair. Local officials are expecting thousands of protesters to greet Trump and his campaign is expecting tens of thousands of supporters to cheer him on. On Thursday, Tulsa mayor G.T. Bynum, a Republican, put a curfew in place for an area surrounding the arena where Trump’s rally will take place. According to the order, Bynum was informed by local law enforcement 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.”
The potential for civil unrest is only part of the problem with Trump’s rally, his first since the coronavirus outbreak shut down public gatherings of all sizes. The rally is set to take place indoors in an arena that can hold 19,000. While the campaign will hand out masks and hand sanitizer, it won’t require their use. And in an acknowledgement of the danger, rallygoers had to to agree to not hold the campaign accountable should they get sick while attending.
A group of local business owners has attempted to stop the rally from taking place by suing the venue. The case was heard by the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Thursday and a decision is expected Friday. At the hearing, an attorney for the plaintiffs said, “19,000 people, chanting and screaming and yelling in a big box in the middle of the worst pandemic we may have ever faced as a country — it’s madness to let this event go forward.”