At the request of US President Donald Trump’s campaign staff, police in Tulsa, Oklahoma, arrested a single peaceful protester in a black “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirt who was sitting outside the venue where Trump would hold a rally on Saturday.
Officers could be seen grabbing the protester by her armpits shortly before noon before dragging her off. She was accused of trespassing, though she said that she had a ticket to the rally.
The Tulsa Police Department said that the woman, a Tulsa resident named Sheila Buck, was in a secure area accessible only by ticketholders.
Officers tried to persuade Buck to leave by herself before she was “transported to booking for obstruction,” the department said in a statement.
“Officers at the location, particularly in the ‘Sterile’ area, will remove individuals only at the direction of Campaign Staff,” police said.
The incident was broadcast live by an MSNBC news crew that had set up near the entrance of the city’s BOK Center, where Trump supporters were already streaming in.
“I’ve done nothing. I have tickets to this event,” Buck could be heard telling officers at one point.
As police escorted Buck to a cruiser, Buck told reporters she had come to show support for the nationwide protests against police brutality and racism that have gone on for weeks.
Trump on Friday issued a threat to “protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes who are going to Oklahoma” in an apparent attempt to discourage dissenters. “[P]lease understand, you will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seattle, or Minneapolis. It will be a much different scene!” Trump tweeted.
Police across the country ― particularly in New York ― have come under harsh criticism for using excessive force against protesters who have carried out demonstrations largely without violence.
A new wave of Black Lives Matter demonstrations was sparked by the death last month of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck. Floyd is just one in a long series of Black people and people of colour who have been killed by police departments that critics argue have been overfunded and underscrutinised for decades.
Trump is set to begin his rally at 7 p.m. local time at the city’s BOK Center, despite warnings from public health experts that a rally in the middle of a pandemic could result in a spike in cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
The president, however, apparently hopes to reignite support for his reelection bid. Polls have shown Trump’s popularity slipping because of his botched handling of both the coronavirus crisis and the protests.
The rally was moved from Friday because it fell on Juneteenth, a day that commemorates the freeing of the last slaves in the United States.