The White House and Trump campaign are defending a decision to hold a rally next week in a city that was home to one of the most brutal episodes of racial violence in the country’s history, on Juneteenth — a day considered to be Independence Day for black Americans.
The rally, scheduled for June 19 in Tulsa, Okla., marks President Trump’s official return to the campaign trail after the coronavirus shifted campaigning to the virtual realm.
The president is also facing criticism over possible exposure of attendees to the coronavirus. The rally’s venue, BOK Center, can hold about 19,000 people.
A disclaimer at the bottom of the rally’s registration page reads, “By attending the Rally, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and agree to not hold Donald J. Trump for President … liable for any illness or injury.”
Asked what precautions would be taken at Trump’s rallies as they restart, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Wednesday “we will ensure that everyone who goes is safe,” but she did not elaborate.
The decision by the Trump campaign to hold a rally in Tulsa, where white mobs massacred black citizens in 1921 has been widely condemned by Democrats, including Rep. Val Demings of Florida and Sen. Kamala Harris of California.
The arena is blocks away from the site of the massacre.
Demings and Harris are among those speculated to be on presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s shortlist for vice president.
Juneteenth is a holiday that celebrates the anniversary (June 19, 1865) of when news of emancipation reached enslaved people in Texas.
During a roundtable Thursday with community leaders on reopening the economy, Biden acknowledged the president’s upcoming rally and appeared to conflate the date and history of Juneteenth with the date of the Tulsa attacks, saying, “He’s going to down to Texas on Juneteenth, right? The first major massacre, literally speaking, of black Wall Street, right, years ago.”
When asked by reporters Thursday whether it was appropriate for Trump to hold his rally on Juneteenth, McEnany defended the decision, calling it a “meaningful day” for Trump.
“The African American community is very near and dear to his heart. At these rallies, he often shares the great work he has done for minority communities,” the press secretary said.
McEnany then said that Trump is “working on rectifying injustices, injustices that go back to the very beginning of this country’s history.”
Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale echoed that sentiment, tweeting that Republicans “are proud of what Juneteenth represents” and that Trump “has a solid record of success for Black Americans.”