Tulsa Veterans Day Parade Attracts Spectators, Controversy
TULSA, Oklahoma - The 96th annual Tulsa Veterans Day Parade attracted about 15,000 spectators Wednesday morning. It also stirred a bit of controversy.
The controversy had to do with one group's participation, the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The tension around the Muslim group joining the parade had been growing for weeks. Group members said they even received death threats for being a part of the parade, and so have parade organizers for allowing them to participate.
But, despite concerns over the float, the parade went off, mostly, without a hitch.
From a distance, the float looked like every other float in the parade - red, white and blue tinsel, plenty of flags. The only thing that stood out from the others was one word: ‘Muslims.’
"Oklahoma Muslims thank our veterans," said CAIR-Oklahoma Director Adam Soltani.
And that single word caused outrage. Some spectators turned their backs as the CAIR float passed by, and police officers even had to hold one man back as he shouted at the float.
Even before the parade began, Jim Gillis carried a sign reading ‘Every Real Muslim is a Jihadist,’ on one side, and ‘Jesus has a pressure cooker for every dead Muslim,’ on the other.
Parade leaders were concerned for the safety of CAIR.
Mike Callahan, president of the Veterans Day parade committee, said he, too, received death threats for allowing the group to participate.
"This is the first time I've ever carried a firearm. 15 years," Callahan said.
Tuesday night parade leaders asked the CAIR group to remove any signs from the group's float, afraid the threats might come to life, but the group refused, citing their First Amendment right.
Soltani said, "Why are you letting the bullies win? If we take the signs down, we're letting the bigots and the hateful people win today."
In the end, CAIR was allowed to keep their sign after publicly denouncing terrorism.
"The Council on American-Islam Relations Oklahoma Chapter and the national office, we condemn every group that is associated with terrorists or terrorism groups in the world. We condemn Isis, we condemn the Muslim Brotherhood, we condemn HAMAS, because we stand for American values and principles," Soltani said.
"We've always had Muslim veterans. And like I told them in the get-go, there's every religion of veteran in this parade,” Callahan said.
CAIR-Oklahoma said it does plan to participate in future Veterans Day parades.
Supporters of Confederate Veterans were also on the sidelines of the parade with a peaceful protest over not being allowed to take part.
There were at least two groups, the largest at the end of the route, with several Confederate battle flags.
Confederates supporters like Anthony Gunner cheered for veterans and criticized parade organizers for allowing the Muslim group to take part.
Gunner: "On top of the fact they wouldn't let the Confederate veterans have a float in this parade, so we're here to tell them ‘no, that ain't right.’”
Man: “I agree with you and I wish more people would stand together on this.”
Gunner: “Thank you for your service. Thank you very much."
The confederate groups were not associated with the people who disrupted the parade.