The Platform

Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times

President Donald Trump will host his first campaign rally in three months tonight at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, amid the coronavirus pandemic. Trump has received both intense criticism and praise for hitting the campaign trail in a coronavirus “hot spot.”

Despite thousands of health officials recommending facial coverings at the rally this evening, the Trump campaign will be handing out masks while making it optional for supporters to cover their mouths and noses. In recent weeks, cases in Tulsa County have ticked upwards, and many public officials suggest that supporters should stay home and watch the speech on television.

The fear of the growing concerns of the rise of COVID-19 is not stopping thousands of supporters and protestors from packing the streets of downtown Tulsa on Saturday.

One of the many supporters who are waiting outside of the arena is Shonda Warren, a resident of Tulsa. While describing the general mood outside in Tulsa, Warren said, “Everyone is looking forward to tonight and (I am) really enjoying meeting new friends.”

According to Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, there are more than one million people who have requested tickets to tonight’s rally. Claiming a ticket does not guarantee entry, which is a first-come, first-serve-based entry.

Warren said that the streets of downtown Tulsa are packed with thousands of supporters, but she also noted that she would likely have to watch President Trump’s address outside of the arena. Warren added, “I will not be able to get in, unfortunately, but (I am) looking forward to President Trump’s statements to all of us, outside the BOK (Center)!”

Jimmy Mancinelli is also excited for the president to speak in his home state this evening but plans not to attend the rally. While acknowledging that there is still a pandemic, Mancinelli is proud that Tulsa is home to President Trump’s first campaign rally in months and is “all for it.”

“People that are concerned with either (their) health or violence can stay home. It’s no different in my mind to going to dinner at a restaurant or to a bar or whatever else indoor activity after the Chinese virus,” said the resident of Jenks, OK.

While he was in downtown Tulsa earlier this week for a business meeting, Mancinelli noticed some roads and traffic were being diverted to different routes as vendors, and the Secret Service was preparing the B.O.K. Center for the rally this evening.

Regardless of political backgrounds, Mancinelli’s family and many natives of Oklahoma share the same fear of the potential for dangerous counter-protests in Tulsa this evening.

“I’m more concerned with my brother’s home, who lives approximately two miles from downtown being looted or burnt if the rioters or looters get out of control. He took some of his belongings and is staying with his girlfriend, who lives in a suburb,” said Mancinelli. “He did not want to be in a position where he had to defend his property by shooting and killing someone. He didn’t want to have to live with that, so he took what he deemed were his prized belongings and locked it up, set the alarm, and (will be) watching his cameras.”

Like Mancinelli, Tulsa resident Candace Adams shares identical views.

“I’m excited about (the rally), but I’m also concerned about the protests and what damage they might bring. I love Tulsa, and I don’t want to see our downtown damaged,” said Adams. “I live about 15 minutes about from downtown, so I’m a bit nervous about it.”

Adams will not be attending the rally tonight but plans to watch the president speak on television this evening. Adams, who has called Tulsa her home for her entire life, told her friends that are attending this evening to have fun but also be mindful of their surroundings. “I’ve told my friends to be safe, but honestly, my main concern is potential violence. That is the main concern they have, as well, and not COVID-19,” said Adams.

Adams also noted that downtown Tulsa is ready to handle any violence or protests this evening. She claimed that a significant portion of stores and businesses in the downtown area have boarded up similarly to looters at recent racial injustice across the United States.

Fellow Tulsa resident, Ellie Sheely, disagrees with Adams, Mancinelli, and Warren. Sheely doesn’t believe that having a campaign rally during a pandemic is a good idea for the president and the residents of Tulsa.

Sheely said, “I am quite concerned about the (coronavirus) case spike. This will result in me personally having to be even more vigilant [during] one [of] my few…store trips.”

According to data recorded yesterday, Tulsa County has seen a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases for the third straight day. Between June 6 and June 13, there was a 116 percent increase in positive cases. Most people infected are between 18 and 35-years-old.

Unlike many people in Oklahoma, Sheely has been isolated and followed CDC social distancing guidelines since mid-March. Sheely is not looking forward to seeing a large gathering of people walking down her streets this evening but respects their right to protest and utilize the First Amendment.

Nevertheless, Sheely expects the protests and the rally tonight to contribute to additional coronavirus cases in Tulsa County. Sheely added, “I anticipate a dramatic uptick in deaths, especially in the over 65 age group and more illness.”

Whether the expected protests in Tulsa tonight will be peaceful or not, Candace Adams has one request for visitors who will be walking around the city tonight.

“I just hope people visiting remember to keep it the way it was before when they got here.”

Benjamin Schiller is a graduating high school senior in Boca Raton, Florida. Benjamin plans to attend Syracuse University in the fall with a major in broadcast and digital journalism.