TULSA, Okla. (KFOR) – The announcement of President Donald Trump’s first rally since the coronavirus pandemic began has led to an outcry of anger or frustration because of the racial ties to the rally’s date and location.
“Oh my goodness,” said community activist Lee Roland, slapping his palms to his face.
It’s a reaction he said was shared by many of his peers after learning Trump’s plans for next Friday’s rally.
It’s scheduled for June 19, or Juneteenth, the anniversary of the day freedom for slaves became a reality in the South, and it’s set to be at the BOK Center in Tulsa, the city that was the site of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riots, one of the most horrendous massacres of black people in U.S. history.
On the tails of the past weeks’ social unrest, some say the racial significance is impossible to ignore.
“I’m disturbed that he would make that attempt to come to Oklahoma, when Tulsa is acknowledging the massacre of 1921,” Roland said. “I’m offended by it personally.”
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the president’s visit, citing work Trump has done for the minority communities, including criminal justice reform and lowering African-American unemployment numbers.
“He’s working on rectifying injustices, injustices that go back to the very beginning of this country’s history. So it’s a meaningful day to him,” McEnany said. “It’s a day that he wants to share some progress that’s been made.”
In Oklahoma, Republican Party Chairman David McLain pointed out it was his party and President Lincoln, a Republican, who signed the Emancipation Proclamation. He said he’s proud the president chose a day that helped shape society.
“That’s what I see the president really trying to do here,” McLain said. “I really think he’s assessing things, he’s purposing to improve things, and he’s trying to put together a completed plan for the future of the United States.”
But that’s not how many across the state are taking the news.
“It’s a slap in the face,” said Tulsa City Council member Vanessa Hall-Harper. “It’s a total insult to the black community and to the city of Tulsa for him to choose Juneteeth to come and kick off his campaign.”
Roland said the decision is contradictory to divisive remarks made by Trump, particularly since protests began.
“Myself individually, I am disquieted and disturbed that he would possibly make a mockery of this day, to say that I am uniting with you all,” Roland said.
Gov. Kevin Stitt expressed his gratitude that Trump accepted his invitation to the state on Twitter. Thursday, his office released a statement saying the following:
“Governor Stitt welcomes President Trump to Oklahoma as we are a national leader in safely and responsibly reopening our economy.
Our office was not involved in the selection of the date of the event. Any questions regarding the specifics of the President’s rally need to be directed to the Trump Campaign.”Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office
Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum also took to Twitter, writing Thursday, “In Tulsa, we protect the free and peaceful exchange of ideas. We did it during the last two weeks of protests, and we will do it during the President’s visit to Tulsa next week. We will also continue to follow the State of Oklahoma’s guidelines for a safe reopening.”
U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R) said Trump’s choice of day and place is an opportunity for unity. Inhofe released the following statement:
“It is an honor for President Trump to choose Tulsa for his first visit following the pandemic and the unrest we’ve seen around the nation. It is a testament to Governor Stitt’s successes in combatting the coronavirus. I believe the president’s choice of date and location is positive—remember, he announced this event during a roundtable with African American leaders—and presents a good opportunity for him to speak about healing and uniting our nation.”Senator Jim Inhofe
KFOR also requested an interview from Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin, but he has not yet made a statement.