Black Tulsa pastor says he was assaulted at anti-mask protest

By KARMA ALLEN, ABC NEWS

(TULSA, Okla.) — An Oklahoma pastor said he plans to file criminal charges against a group of racist anti-mask protesters who allegedly attacked him as he peacefully called for reparations for descendants of African American slaves.

Robert Turner, pastor of the historic Mount Vernon AME Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, said the assault happened on Wednesday afternoon, while he carried out his routine demonstration outside Tulsa City Hall.

The disturbing report comes amid a growing divide among Americans who support mandates to wear face masks in public spaces and those who continue to ignore public health directives, citing civil liberty concerns.

A video from Wednesday’s demonstration appeared to show anti-mask protesters — the majority of whom were white — yelling and taunting the pastor as he recited Bible scripture. Others tried to block his bullhorn, waved money in front of his face and threw water at him.

“How much do you need [for reparations]?” one protester joked while waving cash in front of the pastor’s face. Another person waved a credit card in front of the pastor’s face, saying: “I want to give you my credit card for reparations.”

A bystander shared video of the heated exchange on social media, documenting Turner as he recited Bible scriptures over a bullhorn while holding a plain black and white sign that read, “REPARATIONS NOW.”

Wearing a black safety mask to protect against the coronavirus, Turner was urging the crowd to “rejoice,” for “this is the day that the Lord has made,” when an unmasked female protester approached him, according to the video.

Agitated by the pastor’s unwillingness to turn off the bullhorn, other protesters joined in, appearing to gather around him while chanting, “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” loud enough to drown out the bullhorn. The situation intensified as the protesters began to yell louder and get closer to the pastor.

The anti-mask demonstrators, some donning Make America Great Again gear and holding signs in support of President Donald Trump, gathered outside City Hall as local lawmakers voted in favor of a mandatory mask ordinance.

Despite his experience, Turner doesn’t believe he was targeted because of his opposing views, but because he was a Black person in the middle of an angry “mob” of white protesters.

Turner — who said he’s been protesting once a week at the same spot for years — referred to the crowd as “racist angry thugs” who reminded him of the city’s dark and sorted history with racism.

No criminal charges had been filed as of late Thursday.

ABC News’ Tonya Simpson contributed to this report.

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