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Ahead of Trump Rally, Tulsa Rescinds Curfew Amid Fears of Violent Protests

A file photo of US President Donald Trump. (AP)

A file photo of US President Donald Trump. (AP)

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said he had instituted the curfew the day before at the request of the Secret Service, proclaiming a civil emergency.

  • AFP
  • Last Updated: June 20, 2020, 8:27 AM IST
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The US city of Tulsa -- which will host President Donald Trump's first campaign rally since the coronavirus crisis began -- on Friday rescinded a curfew implemented the day before amid fears that protests could turn violent.

Tensions were flaring in the Oklahoma city -- which was the scene in 1921 of one of the worst racial massacres in US history -- as residents celebrated Juneteenth on Friday, a day commemorating the end of slavery in the country.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said Friday he had instituted the curfew the day before at the request of the Secret Service, proclaiming a "civil emergency."

It covered the area around the BOK Center arena where Trump is to speak, and had been set to remain in force through early Sunday, with a break for Saturday's rally.

"Today, we were told the curfew is no longer necessary so I am rescinding it," Bynum said in a statement.

Trump tweeted the news, saying: "Enjoy yourselves - thank you to Mayor Bynum!"

Barricades had gone up Friday on the roads around the center, keeping streets clear of pedestrians and vehicles.

One consequence: Dozens of Trump supporters who have lined up for days ahead of time to get the best seats were forced to take down their tents and move to an authorized area.

More than 100,000 people were expected to attend the rally, which has been sharply criticized as both a potential COVID-19 superspreader event and insensitive to Tulsa's painful racial history.

On May 31 to June 1 of 1921, a white mob burned down a black neighborhood, Greenwood, killing as many as 300 people and destroying some 1,200 buildings.

The Trump rally has drawn calls for protests, and civil rights leader Al Sharpton was expected to speak at a Juneteenth rally on Friday.

Bynum's original order cited "civil unrest" in Tulsa and the United States since the May 25 killing of African-American man George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, suffocating him.

It also noted that a federal exclusion zone was being established around the Trump rally site "in the interests of national security."

Stephen Corley, 19, said he was concerned about "leftist liberals" and "rioters and protesters protesting Black Lives Matter."

Like many people interviewed by AFP who said they were planning on attending the rally, Corley was not wearing a face mask, but he said he would if need be.

"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity. I'm not going to miss out on seeing Trump just because I don't want to wear a mask," he said.

Trump had initially picked Friday for his first rally in months, but pushed it back by a day amid criticism about holding it on Juneteenth, which marks the 155th anniversary of the last African-American slaves learning of the end of slavery.

Kansas hairdresser Tammy Willard was dismayed that people were speaking out against Trump's visit.

"He moved it to Saturday, he was not going to interrupt their celebration," the 52-year-old said.

"He did it out of respect for them. And they're still not grateful. And I don't understand it."

"I just want a chance to see him in-person, not just watch him on television," said Willard, who had been camping out with her family since Wednesday.

"I hear it's quite different. It's my first time," she said.

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