Archives for category: Tulsa

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.
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John Thompson is a retired teacher and historian in Oklahoma. He writes here about the resumption of Trump’s big political rallies, beginning in Tulsa. The attendees will have to sign a waiver releasing the campaign of any liability if they fall sick with COVID.

Will Trump promote the disease amongst his enthusiastic base? He won’t wear a mask. To show their macho, his followers will copy him, in defiance of CDC guidelines. Why would Trump want to sicken and/or kill his own base? Will he tell them that the coronavirus is a hoax? Or will he spend his hour ridiculing Biden, Romney, Democrats, and his other enemies?

The headline which should have drawn Oklahomans’ attention was “OMRF: Virus Likely to Remain in Circulation for Decades.” The Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation President Stephen Prescott expressed skepticism that a COVID-19 vaccine will “wipe out the virus,” because many Americans “don’t vaccinate because they don’t believe in it or don’t trust a new vaccine.” The news article cited a recent survey of Oklahomans which found that only 55% of those polled would get a coronavirus vaccine. It then cited Washington Post which “found that only 7 in 10 Americans were interested in getting vaccinated.”

The top headlines, however, were about President Donald Trump’s Tulsa rally, originally scheduled on Juneteenth, and how he wants large crowds of people not wearing masks. Not only was he denigrating the historic celebration of the day when slaves in the Southwest learned of their emancipation, but he was doing so on the 99th anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre, where about 300 African-Americans were murdered. And it’s only been four years since Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man, was fatally shot by a white Tulsa police officer, who escaped a criminal conviction, and was later hired as a deputy sheriff in a neighboring county.

These and the other awful headlines of the week are due to decades-old mindsets, featuring anti-intellectualism, paranoia, and racism. They are also legacies of years of rightwing lobbying. For instance, the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee (OCPAC) compared Republican Senator Ervin Yen, a physician who sought to limit vaccination exemptions, to Hitler, Mao and Mussolini.

And their destructive propaganda crossed the tipping point during the Trump administration.

We’ve long heard anti-vaccination spin. But Oklahoma now has an anti-vaxxer, a Trump acolyte, as governor. When the Daily Beast quoted Gov. Kevin Stitt’s own words, he tried to back off from his message to the OCPAC. However, Oklahoma Watch reporting served as a reminder of the anti-vaccination, “pro-choice” mindset’s enduring power. His kids attended a private school where 24% received exemptions.

The Trumpers’ destructive ideologies are especially frightening due to the way they pressured local leaders, forcing an abandonment of the science-based policies that were working against the virus. Stitt first posted a photo with his kids eating at a crowded restaurant, and tried to maintain “business as usual,” which meant that Oklahoma was one of the last two states in the nation to do so.

The OCPAC and the Stitt administration pushed policies that could require workers to choose between their health and their income. They also used the pandemic as an opportunity to try to restrict abortion rights, stop Medicaid expansion, and expand vouchers, as well as ridicule medical “experts” who supported Black Lives Matter while urging social distancing.

Even after an Oklahoma City McDonald’s customer shot two employees after being asked to leave because she wouldn’t wear a mask, Stitt signed an anti-Red Flag law to prevent municipalities from passing ordinances that “could restrict gun access to an individual deemed to be an imminent danger.”

In other words, it is no surprise that Trump’s rally is scheduled for a place where the groundwork has long been laid for his hate speech and cruelty. But, in March and April, it looked like enlightened, bipartisan leadership was flattening the COVID-19 curve, especially in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Norman; in fact, Oklahoma City’s infection rate remained flat until the forced reopening was implemented, and Norman’s progress is continuing.

Moreover, during the Oklahoma City marches for George Floyd, even after Stitt inappropriately sent in the National Guard, Black Lives Matter and municipal leaders continued to communicate, preventing serious violence.

My sense is that Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum is like Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt (and our former Police Chief Bill Citty) in trying to reform our reactionary law enforcement cultures. But they are facing intractable problems and a determined rightwing assault. Bynum recently blamed the murder of Terence Crutcher on the “insidious nature of drug utilization” rather than racism. I suspect we saw his true beliefs when Bynum subsequently apologized.

Also, its my understanding that there would be legal complexities, as well as political threats, that make an Oklahoma mayor’s authority complicated. But, how could any mayor not publicly resist the dangerous Trump rally? Couldn’t he at least join the Tulsa Health Department’s Dr. Bruce Dart in calling for a postponement until after the city’s current surge in infections is under control?

The systemic problem was exemplified by Tulsa Police Maj. Travis Yates who “denied systemic racism exists in the Tulsa Police Department, adding, ‘By the way, all the research on this says … we’re shooting African Americans about 24% less than we probably ought to base on the crimes being committed.’”

Worse, the OCPAC’s “Government Unions Kill George Floyd” illustrates the way that Trump supporters are doubling down on their agenda. It explained:

A government union isn’t the only thing that attacked Floyd. News reports note that due to government shutdowns associated with COVID-19, Floyd was hurled into unemployment with millions of Americans who became unemployed because of government’s overreach and government’s shutdowns of nonessential businesses.

Who knows how big of a symbolic victory it was when Trump’s rally date was moved to June 20? Just a few months ago, I was repeatedly, thrilled that municipal leaders quickly ordered shelter-at-home. I was even more pleasantly surprised when the public supported those policies. Similarly, when attending a major Black Lives Rally, I was stunned by the size of the crowds walking such large distances after finally finding parking spots. Even though concerns about social distancing have reduced the size of subsequent crowds, these multi-racial, cross-generational protests persist.

Yes, the ideologues’ agenda have exposed us to even more danger, driving a new COVID-19 surge. But we’re finally tackling structural injustices, as well as Trump’s antics.