PRESIDENT Donald Trump took aim at Joe Biden on Saturday night during his first campaign speech since coronavirus hit the US — and blamed protesters for the rally’s smaller-than-expected crowd size.
Speaking at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Trump said “some very bad people” were waiting outside the arena who “were doing bad things.”
Donald Trump is seen here after he took the stage at the BOK Center on Saturday night[/caption]
A Trump supporter is seen along and wearing a mask at Trump’s rally[/caption]
He started out his address by telling the crowd “some very bad people” were waiting outside the arena who “were doing bad things.”
While people waited days outside of the 19,000-person capacity arena, seats in the stands appeared empty as Trump spoke on Saturday night.
The Trump campaign said one million people has requested tickets to the event, and scheduled the president to address an “overflow” crowd outside before the rally inside.
But at the last minute, the campaign scrapped the 7pm address to the overflow crowd, as photos and video from the scene showed an empty area before a machine was seen heading to dismantle the stage’s equipment.
The arena on Saturday before Trump began speaking[/caption]
“If you come to the rally and don’t get into the BOK Center before it’s full, you can still see the President in person!” Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, tweeted on Friday.
Parscale later blamed the lack of supporters in the crowd on “radical protestors, fueled by a week of apocalyptic media coverage, interfered with @realDonaldTrump supporters at the rally” who “blocked access to the metal detectors, preventing people from entering.”
Ahead of the event, the campaign texted Trump supporters who signed up for the event that there was “still space” inside the arena.
The Sun reported earlier this week that TikTok users were reserving tickets for Trump’s rally on Saturday, without any intention of going.
TikTok users said they wanted the president to be left standing in front of an empty or fairly empty auditorium.
Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who Trump called out at the beginning of his rally, tweeted about the campaign’s rally-size excuse: “Actually you just got ROCKED by teens on TikTok who flooded the Trump campaign w/ fake ticket reservations & tricked you into believing a million people wanted your white supremacist open mic enough to pack an arena during COVID.”
During his address, Trump said that “five months from now we’re going to defeat Sleepy Joe Biden.”
The BOK Center in Tulsa is seen here as Trump supporters entered the arena[/caption]
Addressing coronavirus concerns, Trump said that children are “much stronger” than adults and said US schools need to open up again.
He said that coronavirus testing is a “double-edged sword.”
“Here’s the bad part: When you do testing to that extent, you’re gonna find more cases!” he said. “So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.’”
Trump took aim at his opponents and the news media, and re-enacted his unsteady walk down the ramp leading off the stage after a speech at West Point Military Academy in New York last weekend.
He blamed his “leather-bottom shoes” for the walk, which he said aren’t “good for ramps,” which he claimed was “very steep” and compared it to an “ice-skating rink.”
Trump is seen here explaining the ramp walk at West Point last weekend[/caption]
Trump blamed his slow walk down the ramp on leather-bottomed shoes[/caption]
Trump also noted that people questioned why he used both hands to lift a small cup of water.
In his response on stage, he took a glass of water and drank it with one hand before tossing the remaining water from the glass to the ground.
On the topic of racial inequality, Trump questioned NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s statement saying that “Black lives matter.”
“Where did that come from in the middle of the summer? No one was even asking,” Trump said. “I thought we won that battle with the NFL.”
Supporters of Trump and his re-election campaign began filing in to wait on line outside the arena hours before the rally was set to begin.
Saturday’s event marks the first time Trump has visited Oklahoma since being elected president in 2016.
Rally-goers were given masks — which they were not required to wear — and hand sanitizer, and their temperatures were taken before they were allowed to enter the center on Saturday.
Six members of Trump’s campaign tested positive for coronavirus hours before the rally began, and “quarantine procedures were immediately implemented,” per the campaign’s communications director.
Trump is seen here pointing to members of the crowd[/caption]
Many in the stands are seen without masks[/caption]
Trump masks being sold at the rally[/caption]
The president seen as he took the stage just after 8pm[/caption]
Pictures from 8am on Saturday showed a huge number of people wearing red, white, and blue and MAGA hats.
Supporters, some of whom have camped out for days, filled several roads in downtown Tulsa, all eager to hear Trump’s speech.
However, protesters have already clashed with the Trump fans lining the streets amid ongoing racial tensions following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month.
One protester named Sheila Buck, who was seen sitting on a sidewalk wearing an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt — referencing Floyd’s final words before he died after a white police officer kneeled on the back of his neck for nine minutes on May 25 — was arrested by Tulsa police.
The woman claimed she had a ticket to the rally, but regardless, was removed from the area for “trespassing,” police said.
Sheila Buck is seen here peacefully protesting ahead of the rally on Saturday, which she said she had a ticket to attend[/caption]
Many outside the BOK Center don’t appear to be wearing masks or socially distancing themselves from one another[/caption]
People float a ‘Baby Trump’ balloon in Tulsa[/caption]
City workers erected a high metal fence on Friday to completely barricade the Trump rally site, but tempers flared after several local residents confronted members of the Trump faithful who were shouting religious messages through bullhorns.
The National Guard was activated on Friday ahead of the rally and has blocked off streets to maintain order around the venue.
Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin said that the 250 Guardsmen will be used as a “force multiplier” to help secure safety zones.
They will be unarmed but will carry shields, batons, and pepper stray for their own protection, according to a Guard spokesman.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers stand in front of protesters outside the venue[/caption]
Trump supporters seen holding signs in the stands[/caption]
The indoor rally, at Tulsa’s BOK Center, comes just days after the city and the state of Oklahoma experienced a surge in coronavirus cases.
Yet very few of the supporters were visible wearing face masks — despite the coronavirus death toll in the US topping 120,000.
On Friday, Oklahoma’s Supreme Court rejected a request to require everyone attending Trump’s rally to wear a face mask and maintain social distancing.
Tulsa’s Republican mayor, GT Bynum, initially established a curfew around the BOK Centre ahead of the rally — but he later revoked it at the request of the Secret Service.
Bynum’s order said crowds of 100,000 or more were expected to show up, and Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager, said those who can’t get into the area will attend a “festival” outside.
Trump is seen here arriving in Oklahoma for the firs time since being elected in 2016[/caption]
A merch vendor is seen wearing a mask while selling Trump campaign gear on Saturday[/caption]
The Oklahoma rally marks the public restart of Trump’s 2020 campaign as coronavirus restrictions across the country begin to loosen.
But the Tulsa talk also comes after weeks of demonstrations, unrest, and violence spurred by a series of controversial police killings — and protests over racial inequality.
Bynum said citizens with more sinister aims were also filtering into his city, leading him to declare a civil emergency and imposed a last-minute curfew near the BOK arena — which has now been overturned.
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While the majority of the demonstrations have been peaceful, many big cities have struggled to contain the crowds when looting, destruction or violence has broken out.
Heightening tensions, Trump’s event is being held just blocks from the site of one of the worst racial massacres in US history — and comes in the wake of nationwide protests over the death of Floyd.
On Friday, Trump told Axios, “We’re going to have a wild evening tomorrow night at Oklahoma.”