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The day before his scheduled rally in Tulsa, Okla., President Trump warned “any protesters” that they can expect rough treatment at the hands of law enforcement, in a tweet that lumped demonstrators in with criminals.
“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,” wrote Trump on Twitter Friday morning. “It will be a much different scene!”
Trump and his administration have attacked peaceful protesters in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Earlier this month protesters outside the White House were forcefully dispersed and gassed by law enforcement officers so the president could take photos with a bible outside St. John’s Church. A tweet from Trump warning that when “the looting starts, the shooting starts” was flagged by Twitter for encouraging violence and condemned from across the political spectrum.
Just before the crowd outside the White House was broken up, Trump said he was supportive of peaceful demonstrations, stating, “I am your president of law and order, and an ally of all peaceful protesters.” Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said during Friday’s briefing that the president's tweet, which clearly specified "any protesters" was actually directed at violent protesters.
Police in New York, Seattle, Minneapolis and numerous other cities across the country have been caught on video treating peaceful protesters violently, with a number of them being suspended or fired over the last few weeks.
Although Tulsa police announced that Mayor G.T. Bynum had instituted a curfew through Sunday morning in an attempt to head off conflict connected to the president’s rally Saturday night, Trump tweeted Friday afternoon that Bynum had told him there would be no curfew in place. Shortly after Trump's tweet, the New York Times reported that the mayor’s office said the curfew had been rescinded.
There will also be a rally Friday afternoon in Tulsa for Juneteenth, the holiday that celebrates the Emancipation, at which the Rev. Al Sharpton is scheduled to speak.
Trump and his Justice Department have tried to portray violent protesters as members of the left-wing antifa movement, but so far there’s little evidence to support the claims. The murder of a deputy in Santa Cruz County, Calif., was initially portrayed as the work of rioters, but earlier this week police charged an Air Force sergeant with ties to the “boogaloo” movement, a network of right-wing groups that want an escalation of violence to start a second American civil war.
“Go to the riots and support our own cause. Show them the real targets. Use their anger to fuel our fire. Think outside the box. We have mobs of angry people to use to our advantage,” wrote the accused, Steven Carrillo, in one Facebook group, according to the criminal complaint.
Officials in Tulsa have urged Trump not to hold the rally, citing the rise in coronavirus cases in the area. Earlier this week, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention documents acquired by Yahoo News showed Oklahoma had the highest spike in COVID-19 cases of any state in the country.
“We’re in the middle of a pandemic,” Tulsa Health Department Director Bruce Dart said. “Coming together is a definite possibility of seeing increased infections and increased deaths from those infections.”
The Trump campaign has said it will pass out masks to those entering the 19,000-seat BOK Center but will not require attendees to wear them, despite studies that show wearing masks, along with social distancing, helps slow the spread of the virus. On Friday afternoon, the Oklahoma Supreme Court denied a request for an order directing the arena to enforce CDC recommendations at the rally.
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