'He divides us': Tulsa residents are wary of Trump's rally — and the national spotlight
Tulsaresidents are ambivalent about all the attention — and visitors —President Donald Trump's rally is bringing to their city.
- "There's a lot of anxiety and anticipation. We're hoping it's going to be very peaceful," Mary Johnson said.
- Counterprotesters have been kept away from the BOK Center by police, though at least one woman was arrested.
- While the rally happens, Sen. Kamala Harris and former Attorney General Eric Holder will participate in a virtual Juneteenth Block Party.
- "Everything is going to be peaceful in all areas today," Seneca McIntosh said. "There are not going to be any issues at all."
While thousands eagerly anticipate Donald Trump's appearance tonight at Tulsa's Bank of Oklahoma Center, not everyone is happy. Many locals are ambivalent, both about the president and the spectacle he has brought to the city of 400,000.
"I was here when both Bushs were here and when Clinton was here," said former Oklahoma state trooper Jerry Pierce, "and I don't remember it being this big of a deal."
Pierce, 61, is handling security for a
At least 250 Oklahoma National Guardsmen have been called in to secure the downtown area. Their presence alone has set some locals on edge.
"This is every day," veteran Melvin Johnson said of the heightened security and police presence. "It needs to be addressed."
Mary Johnson, who rode by on her bicycle, said she and her friends "are very unsure" about the day's proceedings. "There's a lot of anxiety and anticipation. We're hoping it's going to be very peaceful," Johnson, 45, added.
Fellow cyclist Staci Benton said she was more concerned about outsiders: "Anything negative will not be from Tulsans."
Another local, Mary Noble, said the choice to have a rally in Tulsa, a city with a dark racist past, felt intentional.
"The fact that this happening just miles from the Greenwood District that was burned down by a white mob 99 years ago is significant," the 31-year-old Noble said. "I just hope it doesn't escalate to anything violent and nobody gets hurt."
Tulsa artist Greg Stivers was painting an anti-hate mural on Saturday morning. He said he felt like Trump chose the weekend of Juneteenth to have his first re-election rally in months as a way to steal focus away from Black Lives Matters and calls for racial justice.
"It feels like he's kind of doing like a show of force, trying to intimidate anybody from speaking otherwise," Stivers, 30, told Insider.
Other murals read "Love all," "Peace will prevail," and "An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," a line from Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."
Atop the Shrine, a downtown music venue, critics with more bite erected an inflatable Donald Trump. The larger-than-life effigy was wearing a diaper and tweeting from his cellphone, Tulsa World reported.
"Since he's been president look at everything that's been happening, and what continues on a daily basis," David Gayle, a 16-year-old Black man, told Insider. "He divides us."
Gayle was riding an e-scooter to the "Black Wall Street" mural in Greenwood, one of the few signs of the neighborhood's storied past.
Protests have been going on all Saturday, but between security blockades and the threat of the coronavirus, the response has been somewhat muted.
A vigil Friday night was mostly rained out. Less than 200 people confirmed on Facebook for Saturday's "Trump Campaign Trail Counter-Protest," Newsweek reported.
While the rally is happening, the city is hosting a global Juneteenth Block Party, both online and on the ground, "to reclaim the airwaves and keep the focus of the weekend on freedom," organizers said in a statement.
Sen. Kamala Harris, "Watchmen" creator Damon Lindelof, Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook, and former Attorney General Eric Holder are among the speakers, as is Tiffany Crutcher, whose brother was killed by a Tulsa police officer in 2016.
Tykebrean Natrail Cheshier, who is organizing a separate "Rally Against Hate (a peaceful rally)"in Veterans Park, told Newsweek she wanted to create "a safe place for Tulsans to have their voices heard."
The park is about 40 minutes from BOK Center, "Close enough for you hear us, far enough for us to stay away from y'all," Cheshier said.
Like others, she believes it's people from outside Tulsa "that wants to start drama," she told Newsweek.
But while at least one woman has already been arrested for trespassing, many believe Trump's rally will come and go without much fuss.
"Everything is going to be peaceful in all areas today," Seneca McIntosh, a member of the Cherokee Nation who lives just outside of Tulsa in Glenpool, told Insider. "There are not going to be any issues at all."
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