Archives for category: Tulsa

Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters seems to have absorbed all his talking points from ALEC, the rightwing bill mill or he may just be trying to duplicate whatever Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is doing. All the talking points are there about critical race theory, “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” the “science of reading,” the fear of students turning transgender or being recognized as such, the readiness to censor anything that mentions sexuality or gender, and of course, vouchers for home schoolers and religious schools.

Superintendent Walters adds another item to his “reform” agenda: pay for performance, which has been tried for a century and never worked anywhere. It is hard to find an educational program that has been more thoroughly discredited, especially in the past dozen years. Performance these days equals test scores, and the teachers in the most affluent schools always come out in top, while those who teach the most vulnerable children are always on the bottom. No need to reinvent that broken wheel. Even Republican legislators know instinctively that “performance,” defined as test scores favors those in the whitest, most advantaged schools.

John Thompson, historian and former teacher, writes:

Last week, rightwing Oklahoma Secretary of Education Ryan Walters tried to “Shove ‘Choice’ Down the Throats of Unwilling Schools and Parents,” but he received serious pushback by influential Republicans for ignoring legislative norms in budget-making. This week, Walters’ revealed more of his plans to divide and conquer public schools, while ramping up the stakes for educators who don’t comply with ambiguous and weird mandates. The response by numerous Republicans, however, seems to indicate that a bipartisan effort against Walters’ and Gov. Kevin Stitt’s extremism is growing.

Walters started the Board of Education meeting, where his budget was presented with a prayer, which included a “reference to his school choice goals.” He then condemned “a loud and vocal crowd, a minority for sure, that say that all that is needed to fix the problems in education is to toss more money and to leave everything alone.” Walters then promised:

“There will be school choice. We will ensure that indoctrination and CRT (critical race theory) are eliminated in our state. We will also make sure that our kids are safe. There will be no boys in the girls bathrooms. There will be no pornography in our schools. We will make sure all of our vendors and the schools are focused on education and not diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Then, Walters met with rural superintendents in Atoka, the home of the Republican Speaker of the House Charles McCall, who has opposed voucher expansion. Walters explained that his “incentive pay plan that would reward a select few highly rated teachers in each school with up to $10,000 on top of their salaries.”

Walters then complained that:

“Tulsa has done so poor that if you took Tulsa Public Schools out of what we’re doing, we’re in the top half nationally. If you take Tulsa and OKC out, we’re in the top 15.”

So, the Tulsa World reported that Walters said:

“He would be open to pushing for Tulsa Public Schools to be broken up into smaller schools because of academic results there he says are dismal and parents who complain they are locked in because they can’t afford private school tuition and suburban schools bursting at the seams.”

At the same time, Walters’ allies are revealing more options for punishing educators who don’t comply with confusing mandates. While Walters seems to be backing off from his suggestion that all federal education funds be rejected, Sen. David Bullard filed a bill to “develop a ten-year plan to phase out the acceptance and use of federal funds for the support of K-12 education.” Sen. Shane Jett would “add seven more prohibited topics to House Bill 1775, which bans eight race and gender concepts from K-12 schools.” Jett and Rep. Terry O’Donnell seek to ban “teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity to elementary-age children,” And Jett “would outlaw any school policies that respect or promote ‘self-asserted sex-based identity narratives,’” as well as hosting “drag queen story time.”

Moreover, Sen. Cody Rogers “would prohibit school employees from calling students by names or pronouns that differ from the students’ birth certificates, unless having received written consent from the child’s parent.” Rep. Danny Williams would completely ban sex education from public schools.

Then, it was learned, Walters fired the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s Assistant general counsel Lori Murphy. The veteran attorney was “known for her support of transgender people and objections to the state’s rulemaking on classroom race and gender discussions.”

And the Tulsa World reported, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education responded to Walters’ “urgent request” to audit spending on diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, programs. The Regents, “scrambled hundreds of employees to compile a 10-year review of its spending history on and current materials used for … DEI programs.” They found that DEI spending was “a third of 1%” of the budget.

But, on the eve of submitting his budget to the legislature, Walters, as well as his ally Gov. Stitt, faced more bad news. As the Oklahoman reports, Attorney General Gentner Drummond, who defeated Stitt’s appointee, John O’Conner, announced an “investigation into misspent education funds” which “hung over the state Capitol on Wednesday.” As an investigation by Oklahoma Watch and The Frontier found, Connors’ lawsuit led “some critics to question whether the lawsuit was an honest attempt to recoup the funds.” Consequently, The Oklahoman reported, “some high-ranking lawmakers appeared hesitant to heed funding requests from Oklahoma’s new state superintendent because of his alleged part in the controversy.” The reason was it was “a mix of Walters’s and Gov. Kevin Stitt’s staff, not a state agency [that] was overseeing the program.”

The Republican Chair of the House Appropriations and Budget subcommittee for Education, Mark McBride, said (and Speaker Charles McCall confirmed) he had been authorized to investigate the lawsuit, and was wrong in not doing so. But now, as Nondoc reports, A.G. Drummond said he “would pursue accountability for state officials, potentially including Walters owing to his prior role as director of an organization tasked with dispersing the funds.” (for what it’s worth McCall, a likely candidate for governor, attended the budget presentation.)

The Tulsa World added that Stitt had blamed the parent company of ClassWallet for the “unflattering audit of federal pandemic relief funds under Stitt’s control.” But, the audit was critical of how the Stitt administration spent $31 million to provide pandemic relief for students’ educational needs.”

Nondoc further explained that Walters’ presentation to the committee “took the opportunity with some of the lawmakers’ questions to expound on campaign rhetoric, including addressing questions regarding his ‘liberal indoctrination’ comments and past declarations to get federal funding out of Oklahoma public education.” And, his two-point plan, funding “science of reading” and pay-for-performance, drew plenty of criticism.

Republican Rhonda Baker, chair of the Common Education Committee, told Walters, “We have, as a legislative body, voted on the science of reading.” She added, “We’ve been very supportive of that, and we have made sure that there has been funding for that, so none of that is new. What is challenging, though, … is that we are not keeping teachers.”

Moreover, Democrat Rep. Andy Fugate said Walters performance pay plan would backfire by drawing teachers away from high-challenge schools and finding schools where “it’s easiest to teach.” Similarly, McBride said:

“Merit pay, I’m OK with it if you work in the oil field or some industry, but in education I just don’t see it working. … If you’ve got a classroom of troubled youth, how do you compare that to the classroom over here where the teacher’s got all the A and B students? It’s just almost impossible to me to evaluate that.”

I’ve heard mixed appraisals as to whether Walters really believes his own words. Regardless, as his ideology-driven claims become more extreme, it seems more likely that there will be more bipartisan pushback against Walters, Stitt, and MAGA true-believers. And, who knows, maybe it will open the door to Republican Adam Pugh’s bill, based on discussions with hundreds of superintendents and education leaders and over a thousand educators, that “would spend $241 million on teacher pay raises, guarantee 12 weeks of maternity leave for teachers and offer $15 million in scholarships to future educators who pledge to work in high-poverty schools,” while bestowing respect on teachers.

Emily Harris teaches A.P. U.S. History at Will Rogers High School in Tulsa. She writes here about her faith in the public schools. She is concerned that some students have enrolled in the EPIC virtual charter school, which has a horrible record and operates for profit.

I am a teacher at Will Rogers High School. My husband, John, is a teacher at Nathan Hale High School. We are proud our 1-year-old son, Andrew, will become a fourth-generation Tulsa Public Schools student. As generations of our family have done before us, we will choose Tulsa Public Schools. My grandmother is a Central Brave. My father-in-law is a Will Rogers Roper. My mother is a Hale Ranger. My father, husband, sisters and I are Edison Eagles.

Our public schools are part of the fabric of what makes us Tulsans. Many of you reading this can say the same about your family. These schools have history. They have tradition. They have proud alumni. We cannot give up on them.

Tulsa Public Schools began the 2019-2020 school year planning for a $20 million budget shortfall caused by years of improper state funding and declining enrollment. Despite more than a decade of underfunding, many Tulsa Public Schools teachers have persisted in challenging working conditions. These teachers know what it is like to face obstacles and overcome them for hope that all students will reach their full potential. Tulsa Public Schools teachers will carry the same tenacity and spirit of optimism with them as they take on the challenges presented to them this school year.

The Tulsa Public Schools of my parents’ generation did not have to compete for students with suburban districts and online charter schools. Recent reports show that Epic, an all virtual charter school founded in 2011, is seeing a recent surge in enrollment. It has now surpassed Oklahoma City and Tulsa to become our state’s largest school district. Epic Charter Schools may sound like an appealing option to parents in the short term, but data from an Oklahoma Watch investigation in 2019 showed that only 14.7% of Epic graduates enrolled in an Oklahoma public college or university compared to 43.6% of Tulsa Public Schools graduates. This is concerning as it points to the assumption that Epic’s model is more about compliance to meet graduation standards rather than preparation for a student’s life beyond K-12 education.

Epic is contributing to declining enrollment in Tulsa Public Schools. The result is critical state funding being siphoned away from traditional public schools. Unlike Tulsa Public Schools, Epic is a statewide school district, and does not serve as a pillar of our community. When our community supports Tulsa Public Schools, they are undoubtedly making a worthwhile investment in the future of Tulsa….

Here’s what I do know for certain: I will spend each day working in my empty classroom on the fourth floor of Will Rogers High School. I will do my best with technology to teach American history and serve Tulsa students from a distance. I will work with my talented colleagues to collaborate and come up with creative solutions to challenging and unprecedented issues. We will carry with us a mindset to serve students first.

I choose Tulsa Public Schools, and I will continue to serve Tulsa students for many years ahead. The possibility of a truly equitable Tulsa community for all depends on your support of our public school system. I assure you, my students’ hopes and dreams are worth it. Teachers cannot wait for the day when we get to see our students in person. Until then, I ask that you please have faith in teachers. Have faith in Tulsa Public Schools.

Tulsa experienced a surge in new infections, and Tulsa health officials say that the Trump rally on June 20 was a likely cause.

Keep watch on the numbers in Arizona and South Dakota, where Trump held rallies, also Trump’s next stop, New Hampshire.

He is a Super Spreader. He is a one-man catastrophe.

In six weeks, the Republican National Convention will be held in Jacksonville, Florida. No social distancing. No requirement to wear masks. Lots of cheering and droplets in the air. Then delegates will fan out across the country, some bringing the disease home.

This is no way to fight a pandemic.

The Washington Post reported today:

In the hours before President Trump’s rally in Tulsa, his campaign directed the removal of thousands of “Do Not Sit Here, Please!” stickers from seats in the arena that were intended to establish social distance between rallygoers, according to video and photos obtained by The Washington Post and a person familiar with the event.

The removal contradicted instructions from the management of the BOK Center, the 19,000-seat arena in downtown Tulsa where Trump held his rally on June 20. At the time, coronavirus cases were rising sharply in Tulsa County, and Trump faced intense criticism for convening a large crowd for an indoor political rally, his first such event since the start of the pandemic.

As part of its safety plan, arena management had purchased 12,000 do-not-sit stickers for Trump’s rally, intended to keep people apart by leaving open seats between attendees. On the day of the rally, event staff had already affixed them on nearly every other seat in the arena when Trump’s campaign told event management to stop and then began removing the stickers, hours before the president’s arrival, according to a person familiar with the event who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.

In a video clip obtained by The Washington Post, two men — one in a suit and one wearing a badge and a face mask — can be seen pulling stickers off seats in a section of the arena. It is unclear who those two men are. When Trump took the stage on Saturday evening, the crowd was clustered together and attendees were not leaving empty seats between themselves.
The actions by Trump’s campaign were first reported Friday by Billboard Magazine.
As rally preparations were underway, Trump’s campaign staff intervened with the venue manager, ASM Global, and told them to stop labeling seats in this way, Doug Thornton, executive vice president of ASM Global, told the magazine.

“They also told us that they didn’t want any signs posted saying we should social distance in the venue,” Thornton said. “The campaign went through and removed the stickers.”

John Thompson is a retired teacher and historian in Oklahoma.

He writes:

I previously posted on the Profiles in Courage of Tulsans who resisted President Donald Trump’s hideous rally that was appropriately characterized as “Come for the Racism, Stay for the Plague.” That was easy; it was primarily the medical profession that stood firm for the public’s health. The main narrative was the way that Republicans, like Mayor G.T. Bynum, who I previously respected, put Trumpism over principle.

In the wake of Trump’s fiasco, as well as the way that so many Americans did what so many elected officials did not dare, I wonder if historians will see the last week’s resistance across the nation as a turning point. So, this week’s post searches the rally and its opposition for examples of 21st century politics that can be built on.

Mary Jo Laupp, a teacher now known internationally as the TikTok grandma,”” was moved by black TikTok users’ frustration about Trump hosting a rally on Juneteenth. Laupp produced a video saying, “I recommend all of those of us that want to see this 19,000-seat auditorium barely filled or completely empty go reserve tickets now, and leave him standing there alone on the stage.” It went viral and the grassroots registration social media campaign helped leave Trump in front of a crowd of about 6,200.

The New York Times reports:

Ms. Laupp said she was “overwhelmed” and “stunned” by the possibility that she and the effort she helped to inspire might have contributed to the low rally attendance.

“There are teenagers in this country who participated in this little no-show protest, who believe that they can have an impact in their country in the political system even though they’re not old enough to vote right now,” she said.

Of course, many people focus on Trump’s cry-babying over the embarrassingly low turnout, but the TikTok prank wasn’t the only reason why he looked so foolish. Had Trump supporters showed up for the outdoor rally, they could have filled the empty seats in the arena. In other words, while some true believers pledge to die for their President, apparently a large number of potential rally-goers had enough sense to stay away from a COVID “super-spreader” event.

And that brings us to the reason why the K-pop Twitter and Alt TikTok users’ intervention was so valuable. Trump had been bragging that up to 1,000,000 people would show their support for him, and the Frontier reported that as many as 100,000 were predicted to actually show up. It also profiled Randall Thom, a member of “Trump’s Front Row Joes,” who said he had attended 64 rallies. The Frontier explained, “And though Thom said he knows COVID-19 can be deadly — a 24-year-old member of his group died earlier this year from the disease, he said it was worth the risk to see the president.”

How many people in Tulsa and the home communities of Trump attendees would have been infected if tens of thousands of Trump supporters, mostly without masks, had shown up and clashed with Black Lives Matter protesters?

In terms of politics, both the local and national press looked into the thoughts and actions of rally attendees and protesters. Nondoc’s Tres Savage listened to several mixed messages from Trump supporters. A self-proclaimed libertarian said, “I just want the least amount of government invasion that I can have.” Seeming to contradict herself, “she would like to see Trump address issues in the pharmaceutical industry, take environmental action and do something in the agriculture sector ‘like get rid of the big GMOs like Monsanto.’” But she hopes that after a vaccine is developed, Trump would not require people to take it. Her daughter indicated “she won’t be voting to re-elect the president, even though she does enjoy how he trolls his opponents.”

A flag salesman, Jeff Brown, who voted for Trump but indicated that he might not vote this year, complained, “The economy is shit.” Brown said, “I’m not down with it anymore. I’m not a corporate. There’s blood in me. You break my DNA down, I got it all in there. I’m just a regular American.”

Most coverage focused on adults, and the Washington Post’s Robert Klemko also talked with Brown, but mostly he implicitly addressed the effects of the confrontation on children.

Brown told Klemko, “We’re capitalists, we offend everybody equally.” And, “The best seller of the night: [was] an Oklahoma flag with the Osage Nation buffalo-skin shield mashed up with the Confederate flag.” The salesman said that he used to believe the Confederate flag “represented slavery,” but “I have since learned a lot of other variations of the history. … I think that it’s allowed for people to have their own interpretations from their family and their experience.”

So, the salesman makes money from flags like the one that says “Trump 2020: Make Liberals Cry Again,” and his home-schooled son, Joshua Brown, learns supposedly multiple interpretations of history. The 12-year-old “wore a shirt reading ‘LGBT’ with a drawing of the Statue of Liberty above the letter L, a rifle above the letter G, a glass full of beer above the letter B and an image of a bellowing Trump above the letter T.”

Klemko’s reporting suggests that other, worrisome consequences of the rally could emerge over time. Even though the Trump turnout was small, and there was little violence, there was angry shouting and some guns were displayed. A nine-year-old witnessed a white man pepper-spraying a Black demonstrator. A 12-year-old girl, Alex Standridge, witnessed protesters and men wearing MAGA hats trading insults. The girl responded, “I want to be brave like my brothers.”

The Post also reported that a 13-year-old pointed out that one of the police who dispersed protesters with pepper projectiles was carrying a shotgun. And his grandmother offered him a historical interpretation of the Ku Klux Klan:

The whole KKK came out of the Democratic Party. You cannot say that it’s changed. They still use them for their purposes. And their purpose today was pitting them against President Trump, and it breaks my heart, because I value African Americans and they’ve been done wrong by the Democrats.

Nondoc’s Archiebald Browner spoke with Tulsans in the historic Greenwood District, once known as the Black Wall Street community that was ravaged by the Massacre of 1921. While the conversations reported in the Washington Post are far different from my experience, Browne’s observations were very similar to mine when attending Black Lives Matter events and historic celebrations. (My only complaint is that I’m only 67-years-old, but the young BLM organizers always called me “Sir” when repeatedly asking if I’m okay with the heat and would like some water or anything else. And when walking to the rally, I’d see miles of Black neighborhoods with families in the front yards, thanking everyone, but especially white people, for attending. This is one more reason why I believe the numbers of people supporting BLM events were seriously underestimated.)

At any rate, Browne reported, “Just one mile away in the historic Greenwood District, Black people congregated and enjoyed a community atmosphere without having to experience Trump’s rally directly.” Predictably, he heard older Blacks, like Chris Thompson Sr., “telling teenagers ‘not to go over there’ to the Trump rally.”

Different generations continue to hold differing views about how to cause change, but clearly a cross-generational listening process is occurring. Thompson said the American movement will continue, because, “It’s about justice and not to feel threatened to walk around within our skin.”

Browne quotes Thompson:

“I was having a talk with my wife and son, and we are an endangered species if you ask me,” he continued. “You have Black men after Black men. You have the justice system after Black men. You have the White man after the Black men. So where did you win at?

“At the end of the day, I do believe we have to keep maintaining a peaceful, loving walk in this matter because violence with violence is not going to really solve it. It’s going to escalate.”

So, in some ways, America is entering an era of “Which Side on You On?” Trump supporters may not agree with him on all things, and the rank-in-file may be listening more to warnings about the pandemic. But, if this weekend is representative, when true believers say there are multiple interpretations of history, they seem to protest too much. Trumpism’s success has depended on an effort to get everyone on the same page, finding reasons to condemn their opponents.

The rally’s opponents, however, come from very different backgrounds and embrace a diverse set of political tactics. And they were also there to celebrate, not just fight. I suspect that is a reason why Oklahomans seeking justice outnumbered Trump supporters during this pivotal week. The energy at Greenwood came from their sense of community. It will take a community spirit to win these political battles.

The Tulsa school board went into executive session and talked until 1 am, then voted to extend Deborah Gist’s contract for two years. Two board members voted no.

The vote occurred one week before an election runoff for two board seats.

Gist is a member of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change, which supports charters, vouchers, and high-stakes testing. As State Superintendent in Rhode Island a decade ago, she achieved fame and notoriety for firing the entire staff of Central Falls High School due to low test scores. Central Falls is the poorest district in the state. It still has the lowest scores in the state.

In this brilliant column, Harold Meyerson of The American Prospect compares Trump to Nosferatu, the terrifying central figure in a silent German film of that name.

Death—meaning Trump—stalks Tulsa, bringing with him terror, disease, racism, and chaos. Hallmarks of this man.

Meyerson writes:

Tonight, the presidency of Donald Trump reaches its apotheosis with the president’s first 2020 campaign rally, a toxic mix of deadly germs and racist rage that he is inflicting on Tulsa. Even members of the coronavirus task force advised against this gathering. They were outvoted.

You might think Tulsa has suffered enough. It will soon commemorate the centenary of the white riot of 1921, when marauding bigots massacred hundreds of African Americans and all but destroyed their hitherto thriving community. It is currently enduring a spike in Covid-19 cases, which have risen by 140 percent in the past couple of weeks. Oklahoma now ranks second among the 50 states in the per capita rate of growth of coronavirus cases. Packing Tulsa’s BOK Center with 19,000 shouting Trump supporters, under no requirement to wear masks, will surely spread the virus to attendees, to the arena’s hapless employees, and to the surrounding community.

At the same time, Tulsa’s black community will be both celebrating Juneteenth and memorializing the massacre victims by protesting Trump and all his works, which could invite violence from the lumpen loonies of militias and white supremacy groups who Trump has summoned from the politically dead.

Has any notable visitor from afar ever dropped in on a city so manifestly spreading death in his wake?

Well, yes, at least in legend, and the tales spun from legend. One year after Tulsa’s white riot, in 1922, the brilliant German filmmaker F. W. Murnau made Nosferatu, the first great horror picture—for my money, still the greatest. It was the movies’ first treatment of the Dracula story, though in it, the Dracula character, embodied with terrifying aspect by Max Schreck, is named Nosferatu (derived loosely from the Romanian word Nesuferit, meaning “offensive” or “troublesome”). And, as in not the case in the subsequent Dracula films, Nosferatu neither stays in Transylvania nor confines his deadly compulsions to fatal neck-bites.

In Nosferatu, he travels on a ghostly ship to a placid 19th-century German town, bringing with him caskets full of diseased rats who spread the plague among the town’s panicked citizens. The film contains scenes that look almost predictive of what we’ve all gone through in recent weeks, as the burghers scatter to their homes when news of the plague is revealed, and as the streets grow quiet as the townspeople cower behind their doors.

Trump has reached the stage where comparisons to actual human beings no longer seem adequate. As the demagogue campaigner summons his unmasked hordes, he evokes no one so much as Murnau’s carrier of plague-bearing rats.

I’d be surprised if anyone has ever written that about a president of the United States.

Virginia Heffernan is a regular columnist for the Los Angeles Times, where this article appeared.

President Trump’s zeal for rally mode is rising almost as steeply as coronavirus cases in Tulsa, Okla., where his campaign plans to hold a little get-together on Saturday. The weather in Tulsa is expected to be muggy and nearly 90 degrees, with a high chance of thunder and lightning.

You don’t say.

“Bad idea” doesn’t begin to capture how reckless and vicious it is to pack an arena on a steamy night with thousands of rambunctious hotheads in the midst of a coronavirus outbreak.

The disease, which has killed some 120,000 Americans so far, rips through populations fastest when people are crowded indoors and shouting for extended periods.

Check, check, check, check. The Tulsa rally has it all…

This rally is really shaping up to be a teeming petri dish inside a wrecking ball inside a juggernaut.

And then there’s the sickening fact that Trump’s MAGA extravaganza is detonating in the midst of a two-day local celebration of Juneteenth, which this year marks the emancipation of enslaved Black people and coast-to-coast George Floyd protests.

These demonstrations and demands for police reform or abolition have garnered widespread support, even as Trump has repeatedly lied about who is protesting and what their aims are and earlier this month tried to put protests down with military force.

So on top of the strong possibility that the Tulsa rally could spread the coronavirus far and wide, confrontation and even violence might be in the offing. Black community leaders in Tulsa have warned that an appearance by Trump, whose racism is part of his allure, is a taunt.

For his part, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, a popular Republican in a state that Trump won by 65.3% in 2016, has equivocated about the event almost since it was announced.

First, he invited Trump to visit Tulsa’s Greenwood District, the site of a 1921 race massacre in which white terrorists slaughtered hundreds of black residents with the help of local police and the National Guard, laying waste to what was then the nation’s wealthiest Black neighborhood.

Maybe Stitt thought the president would enjoy a history lesson, or that Tulsa’s Black leadership would want to meet the father of birtherism, the Muslim ban and internment camps for Latino children….

As for Trump’s decision to bring his racist campaign into a city with a history of deadly white terrorism during Juneteenth celebrations at the height of American racial tensions, Stitt was dismissive and lighthearted.

“We have great relationships in Oklahoma with all the different races.”

Sincere question: What are Trumpites even talking about when they say things like this? The Tulsa massacre was one of the worst racial atrocities in American history. The Oklahoma City bombing, in 1995, was the nation’s deadliest domestic terrorist attack; its mastermind, Timothy McVeigh, was a white supremacist.

More recently, in 2016, Black Lives Matter protests erupted when a white Tulsa police officer, Betty Jo Shelby, shot and killed an unarmed black motorist, Terence Crutcher, only to be found not guilty of manslaughter.

And on June 4, Tulsa police harassed, handcuffed and forcibly restrained two black teenagers for walking down the center of a quiet, traffic-free road. One officer sat on one of the boys, holding the back of his neck while pressing his face into the ground.

We have great relationships in Oklahoma with all the different races.

These guys can wish away the pandemic and police brutality, but both are systemic — and Saturday’s rally in Tulsa is a powder keg.

Stitt’s not going to wear a mask when he takes the stage to introduce Trump, he said on Thursday. He seemed excited to greet an arena full of Trump supporters.

Tulsa is certainly going to be the center of something this weekend. Presumably, the governor wants to breathe it all in.

If Trump keeps these rallies going, he puts his most avid supporters at risk.

John Thompson, retired teacher and historian in Oklahoma, is keeping a close watch on the Trump rally and its risks to public health. He reports from the front lines of a city that’s about to dare COVID-19 to show its stuff at tonight’s indoor rally for 19,000 people. You can be sure that Trump will not wear a mask. Not wearing a mask in the midst of a global pandemic is the mark of….a brave macho guy? A COVidiot? Time will tell. In about two weeks.

He writes:

The single best insight into President Donald Trump’s June 20 rally in Tulsa was posted by Mark Alan on Facebook:

“Come for the Racism, Stay for the Plague.”

If there was any thought that Alan was exaggerating, it would be overridden by Trump’s own words. After his campaign bragged about the 800,000 supporters who’ve shown interest in the Tulsa rally, he warned in a tweet:

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. It will be a much different scene!

As the first of the estimated 100,000 people drawn to the rally arrive, more questions arise about the racism as a curfew is imposed and then rescinded, as the National Guard is put on standby, and as more threats are posted on social media and the Tulsa Police Department reports “that individuals from organized groups who have been involved in destructive or violent behavior in other states are planning to travel to the City of Tulsa for purposes of causing unrest in and around the rally.”

Similarly, as the number of Tulsa County virus infections “skyrocket,” Oklahoma has become the state with the “second-fastest-growing per capita rate of new coronavirus infections in the country, based on a seven-day average.” So, with the plague side of the event, another question arises: Will we see “Profiles in Courage?”

I guess a possible nominee could be a Trump supporter, who’s been camping out in advance of the rally, and told the Oklahoman, “We feel like President Trump and his family have dedicated their lives to helping our country. Sacrificing a week of our lives is nothing for what Trump has done for us.”

I wonder how many of the “more than 50 campaign surrogates plan to attend the Oklahoma rally, including at least a dozen Republican House members and Sens. Jim Inhofe, James Lankford and Tom Cotton” are just as sincere in their commitment? Or, as Axios reports, are they parts of “scenes to be quickly converted into TV ads.”

Who knows what’s in the mind of Gov. Kevin Stitt, who still tells Trump that Oklahoma is “one of the first states that has safely and measurably reopened”?

Stitt did not consult community leaders before inviting Trump to visit Greenwood where, this month, 99 years ago, white mobs burned down the area known as “Black Wall Street,” killing as many as 300 people. (He later changed his mind about a visit.) We know, however, that like other African-Americans, Rep. Regina Goodwin doesn’t welcome the Confederate flags that early arrivals display. And we know she’s right in saying, “This isn’t a campaign stop. He’s already won Oklahoma. This is a dividing tactic to gin up his base and throw red meat out to his folks.”

Stitt’s newly appointed State Department of Health Commissioner, Lance Frye, doesn’t seem to be a likely Profile in Courage candidate. Frye had said it was “not my place to say whether I think a rally is a good idea or not.” Now he feels the rally is “a train rolling down the hill that we’re not going to be able to stop.”

But Tulsa Health Department Director Bruce Dart has earned his Profile in Courage by telling the truth about the recent surge in infections. From the beginning of the controversy, Dart said, “Our job” is “to stand up and try to do the right thing based on what the data and the science is telling us.” He used the term “super-spreader” to describe a possible “outbreak linked to indoor gatherings, with large groups of people congregated in close contact for prolonged periods of time.”

By contrast, Mayor G.T. Bynum takes the prize for the one who knew what the responsible path was, but ducked. He took a first stand, of sorts, on Facebook posting:

Earlier this year, Tulsans collectively undertook great sacrifice to “flatten the curve”. We did this to slow the spread of COVID-19 and allow our local health care system the time it needed to become properly equipped for handling a longer term pandemic.

We acted early and we were successful. …

But, since May 1, he followed Stitt’s reopening plan. That is why he writes: “Do I share anxiety about having a full house at the BOK Center? Of course.” The mayor then said he was unaware of Trump’s plan until the venue management contacted the city about police support.

David Blatt, the founder of the highly respected Oklahoma Policy Institute replied:

This is inexcusable. As a previously strong and vocal supporter of yours throughout your time in office, I am tremendously disappointed in your catastrophic failure of leadership on this. You are neglecting your responsibility as Mayor for the health and safety of Tulsans, and sad to say, the blood of those who get sick and die because of this rally will be on your hands.

Bynum’s credibility was further undermined by the executive vice president of ASM Global, the company that manages the BOK Center. He said that he would have said no to the campaign rally had Bynum told them to say no.

The previous day Bynum said that he had told ASM Global, “you need to operate this safely and whatever decision you make, we’ll have your back, but that it’s their decision under their contract with the city. They have sole authority for making the decisions on bookings in that facility.” He acknowledged “anxiety” about “having a full house at the BOK Center.” But at the same time, he said he was “not a public health professional.” So, “I’m not here to testify to the safety of anything.”

During these discussions, it was learned that half of the BOK’s staff would not work at Saturday’s rally, and will be replaced by part-time workers. Doesn’t that mean the arena staff will barely know who is supposed to do what, when implementing social distancing and other CDC-approved procedures?

Neither do I believe the Courts will be eligible for a Profile in Courage recognition. After 700 medical professionals and other experts were unable to persuade city leaders to protect the public, a suit was filed, arguing the issue wasn’t about politics, but about requiring safety procedures. It argued that state and city executive orders require the arena to follow Center for Disease Control guidance, and make plans for following recommended protocols. It was supposed to follow the state’s “Open Up and Recover Safely (OURS)” plans.

The plaintiff’s attorney, Clark Brewster, argued that the business operators had a duty to follow OURS procedures, and that included discussions with health authorities, which did not happen. (Curiously, the operator, ASM Global, said that it needed to have such discussions with the Trump campaign, but it didn’t respond to their outreach.)

The plaintiffs also “noted that the courts aren’t allowing full trials because of coronavirus safety restrictions. ‘If it’s not safe to have 12 citizens in a jury box, how is it safe to have 19,000 people together?’” one of the lawyers argued.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court was the “only institution that stands between Tulsa and a biological bomb.” But the Washington Post reports that the Court rejected the argument because “the state’s June 1 reopening plan allowed business owners to use discretion over social distancing measures, and they were not mandatory as the plaintiffs had asserted.”

I’ll need to hear the legal debate before making a judgment, but it seems the Court ducked the issue. Yes, businesses can use discretion when making plans for social distancing. But it seems clear that no meaningful discretion has been devoted to the safety plan. And clearly, the lack of discussion and planning is dangerous. I’ll be curious whether the Court discussed the level of safety that is possible when unprepared staff members are tasked with protecting public health within the arena.

Surely the Court also discussed the spread of the disease and the possible deaths of non-attendees who didn’t choose to put themselves at risk…

But, maybe I am taking an approach that is too liberal and/or science-based. As the Los Angeles Times explains, “Saturday’s rally in Tulsa is a powder keg.” It comes with both systemic dangers born of the pandemic and police brutality. But, maybe the public’s health and safety isn’t enough to slow the political process where the President and his people slap together a mega-event which invites their people to “Come for the Racism, Stay for the Plague.”

The Oklahoma Supreme Court just rejected an effort to block the rally that Trump will hold tomorrow for 19,000 people in Tulsa.

The court said that the state’s June 1 reopening plan allowed business owners to use discretion over social distancing measures, and they were not mandatory as the plaintiffs had asserted.

Paul Waldman of the Washington Post expresses the reasons that Trump’s return to mass rallies is so ominous, even historic.

President Trump’s first rally since the pandemic began takes place in Tulsa this Saturday, and while the content is predictable — an interminable stream-of-consciousness rant about the insufficiently worshipful news media, fake polls, aides who have betrayed him, and anyone else who happens to have aroused his ire that day — this rally will be something special.

So much of the disastrous chaos of this moment in American history is compressed into this one gathering that when the history of this presidency is written, the Tulsa rally may be the one we remember more than any other.

The first reason is that the rally is happening at all when we are still in the midst of a pandemic. The Trump campaign chose Oklahoma not because it’s a swing state (he won there in 2016 by a 36-point margin) but because it’s friendly territory. But like many states where Republican leaders have been eager to remove social distancing restrictions, Oklahoma is experiencing a dramatic spike in covid-19 cases.

Into that environment, Trump will be packing a 19,000-seat indoor arena with people shouting and chanting and breathing in a cloud of each other’s droplets.

The danger of a mass infection would be reduced if everyone wore a mask, but as we well know by now, Trump and his supporters have decided that doing so is a sign of weakness and insufficient devotion to the president. While the campaign will be handing out masks, it would be a shock if 1 out of 10 attendees wore them.

Thinking ahead, the Trump campaign decided to make everyone who attends sign a release promising not to sue the campaign if they contract the virus at the rally. Precisely no one will be surprised if, as a result of this event, hundreds or even thousands more people are infected.

The rally was originally scheduled for Juneteenth, the day celebrating the end of slavery, by a president who has of late been standing up for the Confederacy. Trump did bow to public horror and delay the rally by a day. But afterward — having almost certainly just learned of the existence of Juneteenth — he claimed, “I made Juneteenth very famous,” adding that “nobody had ever heard of it.”

Add to that the fact that 99 years ago Tulsa was the site of one of the worst racist massacres in American history, when whites rampaged through the district known as “Black Wall Street,” killing hundreds of people. It’s almost as if the Trump campaign picked the time and place to be as antagonistic and divisive as possible, precisely at a moment when protests against racism and police brutality have swept the nation.
Tensions are already running high.

While many Trump rallies feature confrontations between his supporters and opponents, this one may be particularly dangerous. The city of Tulsa imposed a curfew in the nights leading up to the rally, fearing violence ahead of Trump’s arrival….

So to sum up: Trump is holding his first mid-pandemic rally in a place and at a time guaranteed to make people angry and upset. He’s coming to a state fast becoming a coronavirus hotspot, putting on a rally almost certain to spread covid-19. In advance of the event, he’s ratcheting up tensions and threatening violence against peaceful protesters.

All that’s left is for Trump to rant and rave in ways that are alternately appalling and nonsensical, putting on another vulgar performance that reminds us all why his presence in the most powerful office on earth is so odious.