Beto O'Rourke Takes Retooled Message to Oklahoma, Urging Unity Against Trump's ‘racist' Demagoguery

TULSA--Beto O'Rourke brought his retooled presidential campaign message to Oklahoma on Monday, hoping to ignite a crusade against racism and intolerance that unseats President Donald Trump and propels him to the White House."It is not enough, ladies and gentlemen, not to be racist in this country," O'Rourke said at a brewery in downtown Tulsa on Sunday night. "We have to be anti-racist in this country. We have to shut down white supremacy, domestic terrorism, white nationalism, and call them out for what they are."O'Rourke, the former congressman from El Paso, has branded Trump a racist president whose caustic rhetoric about Hispanic immigrants led to the August mass shooting in his hometown, and to a spread of white supremacy and intolerance that threatens the moral objectives of the nation.Languishing at the bottom of Democratic primary polls, O'Rourke hopes his focus on racial divisions will cast him as the uniter needed to bring the country together and drive Trump from the White House.But his foray off the beaten political path could further obscure him in a large field of candidates, most of them heavily focused on the early contest states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.Yet Oklahoma, a Republican stronghold, has a strategic purpose for O'Rourke. It's one of the states featured in the Super Tuesday round of primaries in early March, along with Texas, which O'Rourke hopes to win and where he's competitive with the national front-runner, former Vice President Joe Biden.In Tulsa, O'Rourke referred to El Paso often, telling a crowd gathered at a downtown brewery that Trump's racism was responsible the rise of hate crime, and calling the president a demagogue."That violence in America, that racism and that hatred, it found us on August 3rd in El Paso, Texas," O'Rourke said. "I want you to know that as well, that I'm confident that my community, and this country, will not be defined by that act. Instead, we'll be known for how we overcame it."Since the El Paso shooting that killed 22 people and injured dozens of others, O'Rourke has become a leading voice against domestic terrorism and racism. He paused his campaign to mourn with his hometown, returning to the trail last week with a stop in Mississippi, where Hispanic immigrants are worried about raids that left 680 migrants in federal detention. He campaigned in Arkansas on Saturday and Sunday before arriving in Oklahoma.Campaign road less traveledO'Rourke said it's important for a presidential candidate to campaign throughout the country, just as he visited all 254 Texas counties during his close but unsuccessful 2018 bid to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz.Matt Katz, an information technology professional who lives in Tulsa, said he admires O'Rourke for coming to Oklahoma so early in the campaign.He's undecided in the primary. In 2016 he saw Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Trump hold rallies in the state."I'm looking for a candidate that's not all the way on the left or right," he said, adding: "These campaign events are great, They are basically free entertainment."Denise Marsh, a Tulsa pediatric nurse, said she was looking for a candidate to beat Trump."I want someone to help us make American kind again," she said.Combating hateO'Rourke's Oklahoma stops include a Monday visit to the site of a 1921 race riot known as the Greenwood massacre. At least 36 people were killed, thought revised estimates suggest that up to 300 black people died.The riot began over the Memorial Day weekend when a 19-year-old black shoeshine man, Dick Rowland, was accused of assaulting a 17-year-old white elevator operator, Sarah Page.According to historical accounts, black residents gathered around the courthouse after Rowland was arrested, fearing he had been lynched by a mob. Shots were fired and people were killed. News of the shootings sparked a two-day riot. A white mob blitzed one of the most prosperous black neighborhoods in the country, dubbed "Black Wall Street," leaving 10,000 people homeless and inflicting tens of thousands of dollars in property damage.The incident wasn't widely known and was lost even in local history until commissions studied the matter in 1996 and 2001. Oklahoma lawmakers passed legislation to establish scholarships for descendants of survivors. The state has also promoted economic development of the historic Greenwood neighborhood. In 2010, a memorial park was dedicated to the victims of the massacre.On Sunday, O'Rourke said similar reparations are needed nationally to remedy the effects of slavery."If we're going to be up for this challenge, no more pull yourself up by your bootstraps, no more pretending that because we elected a black president, this is no longer a racist country," O'Rourke said. "We must be focused on repairing the damage done and ensuring that we do not revisit this injustice on future generations."Later Monday, O'Rourke planned to visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial, which honors victims of the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, one of the most horrendous examples of domestic terrorism in U.S. history. At least 168 people were killed, and 680 more were injured. The chief conspirators, Army buddies Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, reviled the federal government and sympathized with the so-called "militia" movement. McVeigh's execution in 2001 was the first federal execution in 38 years. Nichols is serving 161 consecutive life sentences."We're going to say that the president's racism, his hatred, the white supremacy that he espouses, does just not offend our sensibilities, it fundamentally changes who we are," O'Rourke said.O'Rourke ends his Oklahoma swing with a stop at a pizza joint in Norman.  Continue reading...

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