The Oklahoma Army National Guard is activating up to 250 soldiers to help provide security during President Trump’s campaign rally Saturday in Tulsa, authorities said Wednesday.
The guardsmen will be used as a “force multiplier” to help state and local police secure safety zones around the downtown BOK Center, where the rally will be held, Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin said, according to The Washington Times.
“The guardsmen will be unarmed but will carry shields, batons and pepper spray in case they need to protect themselves, said Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Geoff Legler,” said The Times.
Trump had originally scheduled the campaign rally for Friday, June 19, which is known as Juneteenth, a day to commemorate the first time slaves in Texas were told about the Emancipation Proclamation. Trump moved the date after an outcry from critics.
But his rally will still coincide with a two-day Juneteenth celebration Friday and Saturday in the Greenwood District near downtown. Several anti-Trump protests are also planned for Saturday.
An Oklahoma judge on Wednesday denied a request that would have forced Trump to cancel the campaign rally.
Two residents, who claim they are immunocompromised, joined with two Tulsa organizations — The Greenwood Cultural Centre and the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation — to file suit against ASM Global, the management company of the BOK Center, where the rally is scheduled to be held.
They demanded that Trump be barred from holding the rally until event organizers outlined how social distancing measures would be employed to help stem the spread of coronavirus and alleged that the rally would lead to a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases.
“If ASM Global moves forward with the event without adequate review, planning, training, protective equipment, and safeguards, cases of COVID-19 — and the unavoidable attendant deaths — will rise,” the complaint said.
The judge denied the complainants’ request that rally goers wear mandatory face masks and practice other social distancing requirements.
Meghan Blood, a spokeswoman for the BOK Center, told Politico that the venue would adhere to the state’s regulations for events. Oklahoma currently lets business owners set their own social distancing rules.
“Government officials have advised that the campaign rally as planned is consistent with the guidance for the OURS [Open Up & Recover Safely] plan for entertainment venues, however, in the event that the governing authorities impose new restrictions, we will notify the event organizers immediately,” Blood said in a statement to Politico.
Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale wrote on Twitter that rally attendees will undergo temperature checks and receive free face masks and hand sanitizer before entering the venue.
Democrats have decried the coming Trump rally — as well as others set for Florida, Texas, Arizona, and North Carolina — while back massive protests by Black Lives Matter.
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