Trump holds rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma

By Melissa Macaya, Maegan Vazquez, Joe Ruiz and Kyle Blaine, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, June 21, 2020
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8:06 p.m. ET, June 20, 2020

Trump campaign blames "radical" protestors, media for lack of crowd size

From CNN's Brian Rokus and Kevin Bohn

A peaceful protester yells outside the Bank of Oklahoma Center in Tulsa on Saturday.
A peaceful protester yells outside the Bank of Oklahoma Center in Tulsa on Saturday. Charlie Riedel/AP

The Trump Campaign is trying to blame “radical” protesters, even saying some were allegedly blocking metal detectors, for frightening off some of the President’s supporters from attending the campaign events today in Tulsa.

Several CNN teams on the ground said they did not see any of that type of activity near the event site. There were protesters in the downtown area, although there was a large security perimeter preventing them from getting within blocks of the arena where the rally is being held.

“President Trump is rallying in Tulsa with thousands of energetic supporters, a stark contrast to the sleepy campaign being run by Joe Biden from his basement in Delaware. Sadly, protestors interfered with supporters, even blocking access to the metal detectors, which prevented people from entering the rally. Radical protestors, coupled with a relentless onslaught from the media, attempted to frighten off the President’s supporters. We are proud of the thousands who stuck it out,” campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh told Ryan Nobles.

CNN teams on the ground – including one that has been at the main entrance nearly all day – said they have seen no evidence of protestors entering the security gates.

Gary Tuchman, who reported from various locations in downtown and spoke with multiple supporters, said nobody mentioned the problems referenced in the statement.

And Abby Phillip reported that when she went through security to the overflow area there were very few people coming in and that it was not possible for protestors to access the metal detectors.

MSNBC had reported earlier that protestors blocked one of the gates.

CNN has reached out to the Secret Service for comment.

Watch:

7:56 p.m. ET, June 20, 2020

Smaller-than-expected crowd at Trump rally

From CNN's Maeve Reston and Ryan Nobles

An attendee sits in the upper section of the Bank of Oklahoma Center prior to Trump's campaign rally on Saturday.
An attendee sits in the upper section of the Bank of Oklahoma Center prior to Trump's campaign rally on Saturday. Win McNamee/Getty Images

In the days leading up to President Trump's Saturday rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he and his allies ginned up expectations for a massive crowd with campaign officials telling CNN that more than a million people had registered to attend, and one local official stating they expected 100,000 to show up near the arena.

But those crowds didn't appear as large as expected Saturday afternoon, leading to an abrupt change of plans by the campaign.

A campaign source told CNN that the team was abandoning plans for the President to speak to an "overflow" area outside the arena in Tulsa where only a couple dozen people were standing near the outdoor stage less than two hours before the rally.

Reporting from inside the arena, CNN's Ryan Nobles described the smaller-than-expected crowd:

8:10 p.m. ET, June 20, 2020

Trump supporter not concerned about possibly catching Covid-19 at rally: "I'm not going to get it"

Ahead of tonight's rally in Tulsa, CNN's Gary Tuchman spoke to Trump supporters about concerns expressed by health experts that today's rally, which will be held indoors, could spark the spread of new coronavirus cases.

Hear what Trump supporters told CNN:

Today's rally comes as Oklahoma is seeing a steady increase in its average of new confirmed cases per day. New cases in Tulsa County have also been climbing, and the county is now seeing its highest seven-day average for new cases at 97.3, according to the latest data from the Tulsa Health Department.

Rally attendees will not be required to maintain social distance or wear masks, even as the administration's top public health officials continue to stress the importance of both measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

The campaign said that hand sanitizer, temperature checks and masks will be provided to rally attendees, though actually wearing a mask won't be required.

7:36 p.m. ET, June 20, 2020

Who you can expect to see at Trump's rally

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez and Kaitlan Collins

Earlier this week, the Trump campaign announced that senior campaign officials would "lead a group of over 50 surrogates to campaign on behalf of President Trump" at the rally.

The group includes:

  • Several Oklahoma Republicans, including Sen. James Lankford
  • Several Black Trump campaign surrogates, including Pastor Darrell Scott, Herman Cain, Diamond and Silk, Dr. Alveda King and Terrence K. Williams
  • Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, Ohio GOP Rep. Jim Jordan and other Republican members of Congress

CNN has learned that the Trump campaign is chartering a jet for the group of Trump surrogates in hopes of having a show of force at the Tulsa rally.

President Trump's campaign manager Brad Parscale looks out a window as people enter the Bank of Oklahoma Center prior to the rally.
President Trump's campaign manager Brad Parscale looks out a window as people enter the Bank of Oklahoma Center prior to the rally. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Senior campaign officials, including campaign manager Brad Parscale, are also attending. Parscale was seen inside the rally arena wearing a “Trump Pence” branded mask.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany confirmed Friday that White House officials would be attending the event as well. McEnany said she'd be in attendance, but that she didn't plan to wear a mask.

The rally was initially scheduled to be on Juneteenth, the oldest regular celebration of the end of slavery in the United States, but the timing and location drew heavy criticism from African American leaders and Democrats.

8:28 p.m. ET, June 20, 2020

Trump will be speaking soon in Tulsa. Here's what it looks like inside the rally's arena.

From CNN's Maeve Reston

Supporters participate in a prayer prior to the rally at the Bank of Oklahoma Center.
Supporters participate in a prayer prior to the rally at the Bank of Oklahoma Center. Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Trump is set to deliver remarks at a campaign rally in the Bank of Oklahoma Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma a 8:00 p.m. ET.

Though many medical experts, including top health officials within his administration, have warned against large gatherings at a time when coronavirus cases are rising in Oklahoma, Trump is holding this evening's event at the indoor Bank of Oklahoma Center arena, an indoor venue, that holds nearly 20,000 people.

Merchandise venders wear masks while selling campaign gear.
Merchandise venders wear masks while selling campaign gear. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Few rallygoers were wearing masks as they entered the venue to take seats that were right next to one another. The crowd standing near the stage was already tightly packed as people without face coverings stood face-to-face talking to one another as loud music played in the background.

The Trump campaign said that it takes "safety seriously," and noted hand sanitizer, temperature checks and masks will be provided to rally attendees, though actually wearing a mask won't be required.

Rallygoers participate in the Pledge of Allegiance prior to the event.
Rallygoers participate in the Pledge of Allegiance prior to the event. Win McNamee/Getty Images

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8:25 p.m. ET, June 20, 2020

Ahead of Tulsa rally, Trump threatens protesters

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez, Kevin Liptak and Nikki Carvajal

Black Lives Matter protesters demonstrate near the entrance to President Trump's campaign rally on Saturday.
Black Lives Matter protesters demonstrate near the entrance to President Trump's campaign rally on Saturday. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

A day before his rally in Tulsa, President Trump suggested protesters planning to demonstrate at his event would be treated roughly.

Despite previously describing himself as "an ally of all peaceful protesters," Trump used his platform on Friday to warn those who oppose him to stay away from the campaign event.

“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!" he tweeted. 

But later Friday afternoon, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany attempted to clarify that when the President tweeted that it would be a “much different scene,” he was not trying to threaten anyone's right to peaceably assemble. She said Trump was only referring to any "violent" demonstrators.

Trump's tweet came as the nation marked Juneteenth — the day that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.

Tulsa's Mayor G.T. Bynum had issued an executive order Thursday establishing a curfew in parts of Tulsa's downtown area, saying more than 100,000 people were expected in the vicinity of the event.

Trump said on Twitter Friday that he spoke with Tulsa's mayor about the curfew and that "there will be no curfew tonight or tomorrow for our many supporters attending the #MAGA Rally."

At the request of the Secret Service, the mayor of Tulsa announced he was rescinding the curfew he put in place on Thursday near the BOK Center.

7:28 p.m. ET, June 20, 2020

President Trump lands in Tulsa for campaign rally

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

President Donald Trump exits Air Force One as he arrives at Tulsa International Airport on Saturday.
President Donald Trump exits Air Force One as he arrives at Tulsa International Airport on Saturday. Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump has landed at Tulsa International Airport, according to the press pool traveling with the President.

Air Force One was wheels down at 6:51 p.m. ET, 5:51 p.m. local time. 

The President did not come back to speak to the press during the flight, nor did any other White House officials, according to the pool. 

Trump is set to deliver remarks at 8 p.m. ET.

7:07 p.m. ET, June 20, 2020

Why health experts worry Trump's rally could be a "super-spreader" event of Covid-19

From CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Bruce Dart, the director of Tulsa's health department, speaks during a news conference on Wednesday, June 17.
Bruce Dart, the director of Tulsa's health department, speaks during a news conference on Wednesday, June 17. Christopher Creese/Bloomberg via Getty Images

As the coronavirus plows through the United States, health experts worry President Trump's campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, will become a new hotspot for coronavirus infections.

Leaders and public health experts have expressed concern, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, as well as Bruce Dart, the director of Tulsa's health department, who told the Tulsa World he wishes "we could postpone this to a time when the virus isn't as large a concern as it is today."

Tulsa's Bank of Oklahoma Center arena can hold just under 20,000; attendees will be admitted on a first-come, first-served basis. People have been lining up for days to secure their spots.

But, at a time when Covid-19 cases are on the rise in Oklahoma — the state has seen new confirmed cases more than double from the previous week, according to analysis of Johns Hopkins University data — and in neighboring Texas, the rally could be a recipe for a super-spreader event.

Attendees will not be required to maintain social distance or wear masks at tonight's rally, despite the Trump administration's top public health officials stressing the importance of both measures in preventing the spread of coronavirus.

The rally violates virtually every one of the guiding principles for gatherings issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, putting it in the "highest risk" category:

  • It's large and it's indoors.
  • Social distancing almost certainly will not be possible if the arena is filled to anything close to capacity.
  • Attendees will likely be yelling and chanting (and expelling droplets farther and faster than if they were speaking quietly).
  • There might be social pressure to not wear masks, as many Trump supporters have mocked the use of masks during the pandemic, and Trump told the Wall Street Journal that he thinks some people wear them to signal disapproval of him.
"We know what makes transmission of the virus occur more frequently, and that includes close contact, particularly without masking, crowds, [being] indoors versus outdoors, the duration of the contact, and then shouting also increases the possibility of transmission," said Catherine Troisi, an infectious disease epidemiologist at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

"There are going to be tens of thousands of people in attendance. So, it is a great place to spread virus. And from what I understand, these are not just people who live in Tulsa. There are people coming in from far away to go to the rally, so they'll be returning to their home cities, and so that we may see spread outside of the Tulsa area," she continued.

Read more:

7:01 p.m. ET, June 20, 2020

People attending today's rally are not required to wear masks despite Covid-19 concerns

From CNN's Kate Sullivan, Kristen Holmes, Ryan Nobles and Nikki Carvajal

Gracie Haworth waits to hand out masks as people enter a security checkpoint prior to President Trump's rally in Tulsa on June 20.
Gracie Haworth waits to hand out masks as people enter a security checkpoint prior to President Trump's rally in Tulsa on June 20. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted on Monday that the campaign plans to check the temperature of everyone who enters the venue for tonight's rally.

They will also be providing hand sanitizer, and each attendee will receive a mask provided by the campaign. Attendees, however, will not be required to wear the masks.

In an interview with Axios Friday, President Trump said he would not wear a mask at the rally: “Not as a protest but I don't feel that I'm in danger."

Trump also told Axios that he wants rally attendees to “make their own decisions” about wearing a face mask. He didn’t encourage or discourage people to wear them, and called masks "a double-edged sword."

 "I recommend people do what they want," the President said. 

He told Axios, “there was a time when people thought it was worse wearing a mask,” adding, "I let people make up their own decision."

Dr. Bruce Dart, executive director of the Tulsa Health Department, told CNN’s Don Lemon Friday that he is concerned about the impact Trump’s rally will have on Tulsa and on the rest of the country during this Covid-19 pandemic.

He thinks the President and his followers should wear a mask at the rally.

“We have such little tools to keep people safe, we have no vaccine, we have no clinical therapies. One of the few tools we have is social distancing and a mask to break the chain of transmission of the virus,” Dart said. 

CNN reported that rallygoers RSVP'd to gain admission to the event and by registering, they had to agree to a disclaimer that states they acknowledge the "inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present."