A little after noon on Saturday, she showed her ticket to police and stepped into the outdoor area cordoned off for the event. When she knelt down to pray, she was asked to leave. When she refused, she was arrested at the request of the Trump campaign.
“There are some things worth dying for, and I’m tired of seeing what’s happening and what’s being done to black lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, specifically, but in this country,” Buck told The Washington Post in an interview after she was released from jail Saturday evening.
During a decade teaching art in predominantly black elementary schools in Tulsa, Buck said, she witnessed many episodes of discrimination directed toward her students. “I have seen how they’re treated when I took them on field trips,” the 62-year-old Catholic school art teacher said. “This was a chance for me to have my voice heard.”
So on Saturday, Buck put on a black mask to protect herself from the novel coronavirus and draped a black cloth over her head, forming a loose hood she said was intended to look like garb worn by the lead character in HBO’s hit show “The Watchmen.” (The show is set in Tulsa and tells the story of the city’s deadly 1921 massacre of black people through fictional law enforcement characters.)
As she approached the black metal gates surrounding a swath of downtown Tulsa near the BOK Center, where Trump would later speak, Buck said, she told police she had a ticket to the event and held up her phone.
“They said, ‘You don’t need a ticket, we’re letting you in, first come first served.’ And so I just walked through the barrier.”
She said she knelt down to pray and was approached by uniformed Tulsa police and law enforcement officials who she said appeared to be Secret Service, dressed in plainclothes and wearing ear pieces.
“They said, ‘You’re not allowed in here,’ and I said, ‘Yes I am, I have a ticket.’”
Police told her the blocks around the city-owned arena are “like a private home, and if you’ve been asked to leave, you have to leave.’”
She told police she had as much right to be there, in a public street blocks from her own home, as the president. “I said, ‘I live in Tulsa. This is my home. This is my country,’ and I was praying … and they arrested me, handcuffed me and shoved me away,” Buck said. The interaction with police at the scene lasted a few minutes.
Hours after her arrest Saturday, she held out her wrists during an interview with The Post, displaying bruises and scrapes on both arms.
“I have bruises; it looks like I’m even lacerated a bit there,” she said. “The police … kept saying I deserved it.”
Buck was arrested on a complaint of obstructing a police officer, though prosecutors have not yet filed formal charges. Buck and her attorney, Dan Smolen, said they plan to pursue a lawsuit against the city and police department for what she views as violations of her First and Fourth amendment rights and against the Trump campaign for false arrest and personal injury.
“They arrested me, a 63-year-old woman!” Buck said, noting that she’s still 62, but her birthday is next week. “Give me a break. I was by myself, what am I going to do?”
The arena where Trump spoke is city property and is managed by ASM Global, a private company that contracts with event operators, including the Trump campaign. City officials referred requests for comment about the arrest to Tulsa police.
Tulsa Police Capt. Richard Meulenberg said Trump campaign staffers directed police to arrest Buck because the event permit included the city streets surrounding the area.
“Not unlike any other private company, they reserved this area,” he said. “The campaign being the event holders, so to speak, they requested that she leave. She refused to do so. Then they called over the officers, and the officers spoke with her for several minutes trying to get her to leave on her own accord.”
Meulenberg said he had not seen contract language that allowed the campaign to direct police to arrest citizens but added, “They basically have that area, and they can pick and choose whom they want."
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Buck said she has been outspoken in red-state Oklahoma about her views on Trump since his election.
“I am a rather lone voice with all of my friends, but I am taking a stand against family and against friends. It’s the right thing to do.”