President Trump restarted his reelection campaign with a comeback rally Saturday night in Oklahoma, telling cheering supporters “the silent majority is stronger than ever before.”
“Five months from now we’re going to beat ‘Sleepy Joe’ Biden,” Mr. Trump told a less-than-capacity crowd at BOK arena in Tulsa. “We’re going to stop the radical left.”
The president attacked Mr. Biden, the former vice president and presumptive Democratic nominee, as “a very willing Trojan horse for socialism” whose alliance with blacks is hypocritical.
“America should not take lectures on racial justice from Joe Biden, Sleepy Joe, a man who praised … segregationists, shipped millions of black Americans’ jobs overseas and everyone else’s jobs, too,” the president said. “Biden is now smearing as racists tens of millions of people like yourselves. Racial justice begins with Joe Biden’s retirement from public life.”
Speaking in the city that was the scene of one of the worst massacres of blacks in U.S. history, in 1921, Mr. Trump said he’s directed the secretary of Interior to place the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park in Tulsa on the African American Civil Rights Network.
The president came on stage to a welcoming roar and announced, “We begin our campaign.” It was his first rally since March 2, when the coronavirus crisis forced a suspension of campaigning and thrust the president’s reelection prospects into peril.
There were many empty seats in the upper portion of the 19,000-seat arena, and open space on the floor as well. The campaign canceled plans for Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to address expected overflow crowds outdoors that never materialized.
The president and Trump campaign officials blamed anti-Trump protesters for preventing supporters from getting to the site.
“I just want to thank all of you,” Mr. Trump told the supporters indoors. “You are warriors. Thank you. We had some very bad people outside, they were doing bad things. You saw these thugs that came along.”
The president and his campaign manager, Brad Parscale, had bragged earlier in the week about more than 1 million people requesting tickets. Mr. Parscale said an auxiliary stage was being built outside the arena so the president and Mr. Pence could address the massive crowd.
Opponents of the president said the campaign had been duped by teenagers across the U.S. who registered for tickets to undermine the president. Steve Schmidt, a collaborator in the “Lincoln Project” of Republican operatives opposing the president, suggested the group was responsible for undermining the rally attendance.
“This is what happened tonight. I’m dead serious when I say this. The teens of America have struck a savage blow against @realDonaldTrump,” Mr. Schmidt said. “All across America teens ordered tickets to this event. The fools on the campaign bragged about a million tickets. lol. @ProjectLincoln.”
New York Times magazine writer C.J. Chivers tweeted at Mr. Parscale, “i have three teenagers. two of them have a pair of tix each to @realDonaldTrump’s rally in tulsa; they registered to spoof POTUS & his campaign. one of them is sitting at dinner now, laughing and saying teens around the united states fooled the man.”
A week ago, Mr. Parscale bragged online, “Just passed 800,000 tickets. Biggest data haul and rally signup of all time by 10x.”
The president addressed the civil unrest that has roiled the U.S. since the death on May 25 of George Floyd during an encounter with police in Minneapolis. Demonstrators have been tearing down statues of Confederate generals and other historical figures around the country.
“The unhinged left-wing mob is trying to vandalize our history, desecrating our monuments, our beautiful monuments, tear down our statues and punish, cancel and persecute anyone who does not conform to their demands for absolute and total control,” Mr. Trump said.
He declared, “We’re not conforming. That’s why we’re here, actually.”
The president said the “cruel campaign of censorship and exclusion violates everything we hold dear as Americans.” “They want to demolish our heritage so they can impose their new oppressive regime in its place,” Mr. Trump said. “They want to defund and dissolve our police departments. Think of that.”
The president spent portions of his speech criticizing the media for accounts of his commencement address a week ago at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, when he was ridiculed for drinking a glass of water with two hands and for walking gingerly down a ramp after the speech ended.
He said he told the West Point superintendent, “There is no way I can walk down that ramp without falling on my ass.”
Mr. Trump joked that first lady Melania Trump told him after the speech, “They [the media] didn’t mention the speech. They mentioned you might have Parkinson’s.”
“Nothing wrong with me,” Mr. Trump said. “There’s something wrong with Biden.”
Former Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, tweeted of the president’s speech: “Major message tonight: I can walk and drink a glass of water.”
Emphasizing a law-and-order agenda, the president accused Mr. Biden of being “a helpless puppet of the radical Left.”
“And he’s not radical left,” Mr. Trump said. “I don’t think he knows what he is anymore. But he’s controlled by the radical left. … The left is trying to do everything they can to stop us, every hour of every day, including violence, mayhem — look what happened tonight.”
He vowed, “We will never submit to their threats, and we will never let them destroy our nation.”
Mr. Trump said Mr. Biden “will always bow to the angry mob.”
“Joe Biden will always let you down, that’s been his history,” Mr. Trump said. “Biden is a puppet for China … allowing them to rip off America for many years.”
The president proposed a year in prison for anyone who burns the American flag.
“Do you want to bow before the left-wing mob or do you want to stand up tall as Americans?” Mr. Trump said. “We will never kneel to our national anthem, to our great American flag — we will stand proud and stand tall.”