President Trump returned to the campaign trail Saturday night with a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that lasted over an hour and a half and made few mentions of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Mr. Trump used the speech to attempt to create a contrast between himself and Republicans as “the party of law and order” as opposed to what he calls the “radical left Democrats.”
“The choice in 2020 is very simple. Do you want to bow before the left wing mob or do you want to stand up tall and proud as Americans?” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Trump touted the National Guard being deployed in various cities during recent protests, something his administration has pushed for repeatedly. He mentioned the so-called “autonomous zone” created by protesters in Seattle, which has become a favorite topic on Fox News, saying he was willing to send in troops. But, he said, “I may be wrong, but it’s probably better for us to just watch that disaster.”
President Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images
Mr. Trump claimed the “unhinged left mob” wants to “desecrate our monuments, tear down our statues and cancel anyone who does not conform to their demands.” He said protesters want to “destroy our heritage.” He threatened to create a one-year jail term for anyone who burned an American flag.
“If Biden is elected, he will surrender your country to these monsters,” Mr. Trump declared.
Mr. Trump came onstage shortly after 8 p.m. and insisted “the silent majority is stronger than ever.” While the campaign had insisted 1 million tickets had been requested, the BOK Center did not appear full and Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence did not speak outside to an overflow crowd as originally planned.
As for the ongoing pandemic, Mr. Trump called coronavirus testing a “double-edge sword” because it created more positive numbers. “That’s the bad part, when you do testing to that extent, you find more people, so I say to people, slow the testing down please,” Mr. Trump said. Health experts say more testing is needed to identify those infected so they can be isolated to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Mr. Trump also continued to blame China for the pandemic, saying there are a lot of different names but it should be called the “Chinese virus.” He also used the term “kung flu.” Asian Americans have faced an increase in assaults and verbal abuse during the pandemic.
Mr. Trump didn’t talk about the shutdown in great detail except to say “we got to open schools in the fall.” Despite the record high unemployment numbers, Mr. Trump touted the economy and insisted that “your 401ks and money itself would be worthless” under a Biden presidency.
Mr. Trump also described his side of a pair of viral videos that showed him walking slowly down a ramp at West Point and awkwardly drinking a glass of water during his commencement address at the Military Academy. At one point during the story, he drank a glass of water as the crowd cheered “four more years!”
Ahead of the rally, a combination of volunteers and staff from local health authorities (including the Tulsa County Health Department) handed out blue surgical masks to attendees. Everyone who wore a mask was also handed a Trump-Pence sticker. Donning masks, gloves, and in some cases, lab coats, these individuals also conducted no-contact forehead temperature checks under sterile-looking white tents.
Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh confirmed to CBS News that six members of the president’s advance team in Tulsa had tested positive for COVID-19. According to the campaign, the staffers were immediately quarantined and would not have contact with any rally attendees.
Inside the arena, traffic appeared free flowing as attendees shuffled past tables of hand sanitizer, which was optional, and treated as such. Volunteers handed out tiny “germX” bottles, though tables also came equipped with strong sanitizer that stung to the touch.
A row of water bottles and portable toilets appeared next as supporters marched past a giant “Trump – Pence//Welcome to Tulsa” billboard. Those outside the arena were crammed between heavy duty steel barriers. A band played loudly on a stage under a green and blue light show. Audiences were gathered in a mosh-pit style.
Attendees told CBS News they wanted to hear “unity” from Mr. Trump. For some, that meant an “end to looting and rioting.” For others, that meant “we need to do something about the police.” Concerns about the coronavirus again ranged from “it’s a hoax” to “it’s a serious concern, but I could not miss this.” One woman said she’s going to stay in a hotel Saturday night because her niece is frightened by the prospect of more protests.
While steel barriers funneled crowds into confined spaces to give the illusion of a packed house, the surrounding areas were sparse and free flowing.
There were scattered protests outside the arena. For about a half hour, both Black Lives Matter protesters and Trump supporters shouted over one another then rallied down the road to a public entryway into the rally. A line of police blocked one entrance, closing steel barricades.
There was an arrest made Saturday morning by Tulsa police, after Trump campaign staff requested an individual be moved from the secure area of the rally.