"This Is My City": Sheila Buck Reflects On Her Arrest Outside Trump's Tulsa Rally

Jun 26, 2020

The scene outside last weekend's Donald Trump rally in Tulsa saw few arrests and largely peaceful demonstrations. But, one arrest did capture national headlines. 

When 62-year-old art teacher Sheila Buck left her apartment just a few blocks away from the Trump rally last Saturday, she wasn't expecting to stay long.

"I just wanted to see what was happening in my neighborhood," the Catholic school teacher said.

"I didn't have a black face mask, so I constructed one and I put a hood around my head trying to look like Regina King in 'The Watchmen'," said Buck, referring to the HBO series that is set in Tulsa and deals with the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

Buck also donned an 'I Can't Breathe' t-shirt and had a ticket to attend Saturday's rally. People in line did give her funny looks, but she said she saw plenty of people wearing things more outrageous than what she had on — one man had a brick suit pretending to be a wall and there were children there dressed as Donald Trump.

She said she showed her ticket, which was on her phone, to a Tulsa Police officer. What happened next was infamous.

MSNBC showed Buck's arrest on national television. She can be heard telling officers to "Let me go!" and that she had never been arrested before.

The Tulsa Police Department released a statement saying the Trump campaign staff directed them to remove Buck. That the rally was a private event. The campaign staff, they insisted, were within their rights to do so. 

"They took my phone," said Buck who, at the time of this interview, still didn't have it back. "They explained to me that this was a private event and I was not wanted."

When she asked why, Buck says they said it would be like attending a private party at someone's house and being asked to leave. Buck responded that Tulsa is her city.

Buck has worked in the Tulsa Public Schools system for more than 10 years. The racial injustices she witnessed during her time as a public school teacher in north Tulsa made her a Black Lives Matter supporter. 

"I became very concerned about... some of the teaching methods I saw in the classroom," she said.

During school field trips, she witnessed the inequality and injustice that occurred outside the classroom too. During one field trip to a local museum, she said she saw other patrons get angry and manhandle her students for being loud and just having a good time. 

Civil Rights attorney Dan Smolen, who is now representing Buck, says her First Amendment rights were violated. He said she had a ticket to the event and, on that ticket, there was a long list of things you can't do. Smolen says Buck wasn't doing any of them.

"It doesn't say on the ticket, if we don't like your outfit, we can ask you to leave," Smolen said. "And that's exactly what happened."

Smolen says Buck wasn't posing a threat. He's bringing claims against the City of Tulsa and the Trump campaign, saying they violated her freedom of speech and that it was a wrongful arrest.