Several stakeholders in Tulsa’s Greenwood District filed suit Tuesday seeking an injunction to force Trump campaign rally organizers to abide by guidelines designed to fight COVID-19, but with a temporary injunction denied by a judge that evening, no ruling on a permanent injunction may come before the rally takes place.

President Donald Trump announced last week that he planned to hold a campaign rally at Tulsa’s BOK Center on Saturday.

The Greenwood Centre LTD, John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation and two immune-compromised individuals filed the petition in Tulsa County District Court, seeking an injunction against the BOK Center management companies SMG and ASM Global Parent.

Paul DeMuro, one of the lawyers spearheading the lawsuit, said events such as these involve singing and shouting in a densely packed stadium. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention has previously classified such events as “superspreading events”.

“The CDC has said, unequivocally, that this is the highest risk event for transmission of the virus,” DeMuro said. “This is a superspreader event in downtown Tulsa.”

State health officials recorded 228 new COVID-19 cases on Monday in Oklahoma, according to data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health. Four more people died from the disease, including two in Tulsa County. There have been a total of 363 deaths and 8,645 infections since March in Oklahoma.

Tulsa County now has the highest number of cases of any county in the state with 1,729.

Online registration for the event requires would-be attendees to acknowledge “that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present.” Rally organizers have said that masks will be available to those who desire one.

DeMuro said the lawsuit was not about preventing a Trump campaign rally and that he and fellow attorney Clark Brewster would have filed a similar one if it had been an event for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, country music superstar Garth Brooks or the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“All we’re asking is very simple: If the president wants to hold a rally here, he needs to abide by the social distancing guidelines of his own CDC,” DeMuro said.

Clark Brewster said they had been hoping such a suit would not be necessary. He said he hoped organizers “would listen to reason.”

“(T)he rally organizers even knew enough about the risk that they’re asking the people who attend to sign a waiver,” Brewster said. “It’s not the waiver that the person signs to go in there; it’s the fact that that person may leave and give it to others that are unsuspecting.”

Brewster as of last year was representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in her appeal of a defamation suit filed against Trump for libel and slander. Daniels has said she and Trump had an affair in 2006 after he married first lady Melania Trump.

In an online letter to Mayor G.T. Bynum on Monday, 500 health care professionals in Tulsa and Oklahoma asked him to issue a moratorium for large-scale indoor events. Dr. Bruce Dart, Tulsa Health Department’s director, has been imploring public officials since at least Saturday to postpone the rally.

Several hopeful attendees, who were camped outside the BOK Center, said Tuesday that they were not fearful of the virus.

The lawsuit is seeking an injunction to force BOK Center management to abide by various protocols, including social distancing, taking temperatures, seating in only every third seat and wearing masks, according to the petition. It also seeks compensatory and punitive damages, reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, and any relief the courts deem proper.

Despite DeMuro and Brewster’s hopes that a hearing would be held before the rally, District Judge Rebecca Nightingale denied their request for an expedited hearing and temporary injunction Tuesday evening.

But Brewster said the case won’t be for nothing if there isn’t a hearing before the rally. Should the rally take place and the plaintiffs’ concerns come to fruition, Brewster said the suit could instead seek “massive damages.”

ASM Global officials did not immediately respond Tuesday to a request for comment.

Stetson Payne contributed to this story.


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Harrison Grimwood

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harrison.grimwood

@tulsaworld.com

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