President Donald Trump on Friday announced via Twitter that he is moving the date of his upcoming rally in Tulsa, Okla., by one day. Trump came under criticism for initially scheduling the rally on a holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in America.
The rally was scheduled for June 19, also known as Juneteenth. Trump said Friday it will be moved to June 20.
"Many of my African American friends and supporters have reached out to suggest that we consider changing the date out of respect for this Holiday, and in observance of this important occasion and all that it represents," Trump tweeted.
The location selected for the rally -- Tulsa, an Oklahoma city that in 1921 was the site of a fiery and orchestrated white-on-black attack -- also led to criticism.
“To choose the date, to come to Tulsa, is totally disrespectful and a slap in the face to even happen,” said Sherry Gamble Smith, president of Tulsa’s Black Wall Street Chamber of Commerce, an organization named after the prosperous black community that white Oklahomans burned down in the 1921 attack.
The rally comes as Trump's harsh law-and-order stance appears to fall increasingly out of sync with a growing concern over police abuse of African Americans after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Trump campaign officials defended the rally Thursday.
“As the party of Lincoln, Republicans are proud of the history of Juneteenth,” said Katrina Pierson, senior adviser to the Trump campaign. “President Trump has built a record of success for Black Americans, including unprecedented low unemployment prior to the global pandemic, all-time high funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and criminal justice reform.”
The Trump campaign was aware in advance that the date for the president’s return to rallies was Juneteenth, according to two campaign officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly about internal discussions and spoke on condition of anonymity.
When the date was discussed, it was noted that Biden had held a fundraiser a year ago on Juneteenth. Although choosing June 19 was not meant to be incendiary, some blowback was expected, the officials said. But the campaign was caught off guard by the intensity, particularly when some linked the selection to the 1921 massacre.
Arena marketing director Meghan Blood said Thursday that she didn't know yet about any plans for social distancing or other coronavirus precautions for Trump's rally, which would be one of the larger public gatherings in the U.S. at this stage of the outbreak.
Campaign officials said safety decisions would be made in coordination with local authorities. A disclaimer on the ticket registration website said attendees voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and agree not to hold the campaign liable for any illness.
The campaign officials said the Trump campaign picked Oklahoma because arrangements could be made quickly, for a variety of reasons: Oklahoma has a Republican, Trump-friendly governor; the state is not seeing huge numbers of coronavirus cases; and the arena was “turn-key” and could easily be opened for the rally. Moreover, the rally will be held up the turnpike from a district held by Rep. Kendra Horn, one of the Democrats the GOP feels is vulnerable this fall.
Campaign officials also wanted to hold the rally where they could all but guarantee a big crowd despite coronavirus concerns, according to the officials. Oklahoma is one of the most Republican states in the nation and Trump has not held a rally there as president, so it will likely deliver an enthusiastic audience eager to see him, the officials believed.