Donald Trump’s supporters faced protesters shouting “Black Lives Matter” on 20 June in Oklahoma as the president took the stage for his first campaign rally in months.
Demonstrators flooded Tulsa’s streets and blocked traffic at times.
Many of the marchers chanted but faced Trump supporters, who outnumbered them and yelled “All lives matter”. Ahead of the rally, Trump threatened protesters:
Later in the evening, a group of armed men began following the protesters. When the protesters blocked a junction, a man wearing a Trump shirt got out of a truck and spattered them with pepper spray. Reports on social media showed police arresting peaceful protesters:
When demonstrators approached a National Guard bus that got separated from its caravan, Tulsa police officers fired pepper balls to push back the crowd, said Tulsa police spokesman captain Richard Meulenberg.
Officers soon left the area as it cleared.
Trump’s supporters gathered inside the 19,000-seat BOK Centre for what was believed to be the largest indoor event in the country since restrictions to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus began in March.
Many of the president’s supporters were not wearing masks, despite the recommendation of public health officials. Some had been camped near the venue since early in the week.
Turnout at the rally was lower than the campaign predicted, with a large swathe of standing room on the stadium floor and empty seats in the balconies.
Trump had been scheduled to appear at a rally outside of the stadium within a perimeter of tall metal barriers but that event was abruptly cancelled.
Trump campaign officials said protesters prevented the president’s supporters from entering the stadium. However, three Associated Press journalists reporting in Tulsa for several hours leading up to the president’s speaking did not see protesters block entry to the area where the rally was held.
While Trump spoke onstage, protesters carried a papier-mache representation of him with a pig snout. Some in the multi-racial group wore Black Lives Matter shirts others sported rainbow-coloured armbands, and many covered their mouths and noses with masks.
Trump drew wide criticism for his choice and venue for the rally. 19 June is called Juneteenth, a hugely significant day that marks the move to ending slavery in the US. In 1921, white supremacists destroyed Tulsa and murdered as many as 300 Black people.