Despite local police making arrests at behest of Trump campaign, city of Tulsa ‘will not bill the campaign’

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Tulsa Police Department officers stand in the street in downtown Tulsa on Saturday, June 20, 2020, during President Donald Trump’s rally inside the BOK Center. KASSIE McClung/The Frontier

The city of Tulsa will not bill President Donald Trump’s campaign after the rally over the weekend, despite the Tulsa Police Department making arrests outside of the BOK Center at the campaign’s behest, The Frontier has learned.

City of Tulsa Director of Communications Michelle Brooks told The Frontier on Tuesday the “City did not have a contract with the campaign and will not bill the campaign. No special permits were issued either.”

While Trump’s campaign has been accused multiple times in the past of not paying its bills by cities who’ve hosted rallies for the President, it doesn’t appear that will be an issue for Tulsa. BOK Center officials said they were paid $460,000 up front by the campaign, and the city did not bill Trump’s campaign despite providing at least some level of security for the event. Some cities have reported invoicing the campaign for policing costs and never being repaid. 

“TPD Officers and BAPD (Broken Arrow Police Department), OKCPD (Oklahoma City Police Department), OHP (Oklahoma Highway Patrol) and OKNG, were funded through their respective agencies and not the campaign to assist in the visit by the President and Vice President,” Brooks said.

An entire section of Tulsa’s downtown surrounding the BOK Center, the site of the President’s campaign event, was blocked off by city and federal officials and thousands of people filled what was called the “rally zone.”

There was a mixture of law enforcement groups active, including the United States Secret Service, the Oklahoma National Guard, the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office, the Tulsa Police Department, and some groups wearing ballistic vests with the word TROOPER emblazoned on them.

A Tulsa Police Department officer talks to Sheila Buck before arresting her on Saturday, June 20, 2020, outside the BOK Center where President Donald Trump was set to hold a rally. Courtesy Tulsa Police Department

But it was Tulsa police who drew the headlines when officers first arrested a local woman on live TV within the rally zone. The woman, Sheila Buck, a local Catholic school teacher, had worn an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt into the rally zone, and was arrested when she did not leave the area after being asked to by Tulsa police. 

Criticized by some for arresting what amounted to a peaceful protestor, Tulsa police said that Buck was arrested at the discretion of the Trump campaign. 

In a media release from Saturday, Tulsa police said they “were requested by Trump Campaign Staff to remove an individual from the secure area of the rally.”

“Tulsa Police spoke to the arrestee, Ms. Buck, for several minutes trying to convince her to leave on her own accord,” the release states. “After several minutes requesting her to leave she continued to refuse to cooperate and was escorted out of the area and transported to booking for obstruction.

“For clarification, the arrestee had passed through the metal detector area to the most secure area of the event accessible only to ticket holders. Whether she had a ticket or not for the event is not a contributing factor for the Tulsa Police in making the arrest. Officers at the location, particularly in the ‘Sterile’ area, will remove individuals only at the direction of Campaign Staff.”

Listen Frontier: Trump visits Tulsa

For their work, Tulsa police found themselves targeted by the campaign in the wake of the rally and blamed for the low attendance figures.

Brad Parscale, the campaign manager for Trump’s 2020 re-election bid, told the New York Times that Tulsa police “had overreacted” and barred thousands from entering the BOK Center. Tulsa police responded this week, saying that one gate of entry into the rally zone was temporarily blocked for 30 minutes as protestors and Trump supporters faced off. Two other gates remained open during this time and were mostly unused due to the small number of people attempting to enter the rally zone. 

“This singular and brief incident was the only time ‘local law enforcement in Tulsa’ closed a gate, thereby restricting anyone from entering the event,” police said in a statement. 

There was much consternation leading up to Saturday’s rally — city officials said they expected 120,000 attendees, and a curfew was briefly ordered, then rescinded the day before the rally. There were fears in the city of wide-scale protests and even violence, with some stores, such as QuikTrip, boarding up businesses as far away as four miles from downtown.

President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Tulsa at the BOK Center on Saturday, June 20, 2020. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

In the end, none of those fears materialized. A Tulsa Fire Department spokesman told the media that only about 6,200 ticketed attendees entered the BOK Center for the rally, less than one-third of the arena’s capacity. The number did not include media and campaign staff that also were inside the building.

And, accordingly, the expected overflow crowd outside was non-existent, leading Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to abruptly cancel a planned outdoor speaking engagement.

There were protests outside the rally zone, but they mostly stayed non-violent. And a showdown between protestors and Trump supporters following the rally fizzled out. By 11 p.m. the only noise downtown was from a raucous Juneteenth celebration on Tulsa’s historic Black Wall Street in the Greenwood District. 

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Dylan Goforth

Editor in Chief/Staff Writer

Dylan has two kids, three dogs, and no time to himself. He's fueled by QuikTrip and Twitter. Contact: dylan@readfrontier.com or 918-931-9405.
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