Tulsa arena management accused of sabotaging Trump campaign event to keep attendance low

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A report written by an anonymous person claiming to have attended President Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa earlier this month accused the venue management team of sabotaging the event to keep attendance low.

In the report, published late last week at Armstrong Economics, the anonymous attendee claims that they and scores of others “never got past” an area where BOK Center workers were initially taking the temperatures of people who wanted to get in and see the president.

The anonymous writer described several layers of security and points of entry, ranging from Secret Service checkpoints that funneled rally goers into various lanes where they could have their temperatures taken, per coronavirus protocols, before entering the venue.

But, according to the report, temperature screeners left their stations early — hours before the event began — and thus were not able to clear as many people to get into the venue.

“It was all a setup to make it look like the crowds did not show up. The crowds DID show up and after 5pm,- 2 hours before the event- no one was there to let them get to security,” the report states.

“With only about 3/4 of the building full, and no overflow crowd-then. CNN boasts that the rally was a flop. The only thing that was a flop was BOK temperature screeners turned away thousands of attendees that never got to be near the rally,” it added.

While these claims have not been corroborated, it is clear that event staff, reportedly on instructions from state health officials, did attempt to limit seating in the BOK Center in a bid to enforce social distancing.

The Washington Post reported that in the hours before the June 20 rally, the president’s campaign insisted on the removal of thousands of “Do Not Sit Here, Please!” stickers from seats in the 19,000-capacity venue intended to put distance between attendees.

“As part of its safety plan, arena management had purchased 12,000 do-not-sit stickers for Trump’s rally, intended to keep people apart by leaving open seats between attendees,” the Post reported.

“On the day of the rally, event staff had already affixed them on nearly every other seat in the arena when Trump’s campaign told event management to stop and then began removing the stickers, hours before the president’s arrival,” the paper added.

Billboard Magazine also reported on the seat sticker ‘controversy,’ noting that the designations and social distancing are “part of a new safety protocol at the arena known as VenueShield.”

Upon discovering the seat stickers, campaign staffers contacted an executive at ASM Global, the event company that oversaw the Tulsa rally, and demanded that workers be instructed to stop labeling seats.

In addition, “they also told us that they didn’t want any signs posted saying we should social distance in the venue,” Doug Thornton, ASM’s executive vice president, told Billboard.

“The campaign went through and removed the stickers,” he added.

Billboard noted further:

A video created by a third party and reviewed by Billboard shows Trump staffers methodically walking the aisles of BOK Center and peeling the three-inch square stickers from thousands of chairs ahead of the “Make America Great Again” rally.

The magazine blasted the Trump campaign and its staff for violating the VenueShield program’s recommendations, as well as GOP Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum for failing to cancel the event, adding that “Bynum later said he would have supported ASM Global if it had canceled the rally.”

But buried in the Billboard article is this passage:

But even if ASM Global had wanted to cancel the rally, Thornton didn’t think the company had the legal authority to block the President from using the publicly-owned arena. Oklahoma state law was clear, Thornton says…: Since the state had entered phase 3 of its reactivation plan, full capacity events like the Trump campaign rally were allowed, and the city’s public safety agencies had already signed off on the event.

“We would never make a call on an event like this without contacting the local officials, to get their approval,” Thornton told Billboard. “An ASM executive even reached out to the mayor’s office and asked, ‘Are you OK with us going forward with this?’ Their response was, ’Yeah, proceed to the fullest extent that the President has requested.’”

The Post attempted to contact ASM Global but did not get a response.

“The rally was in full compliance with local requirements. In addition, every rally attendee received a temperature check prior to admission, was given a face mask, and provided ample access to hand sanitizer,” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh told the paper.

In a separate statement to the Post, the Trump campaign noted, “There were signs posted and we are not aware of any campaign staff asking that they be removed.”


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