President Donald Trump moved a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, so it would no longer fall on June 19th, or Juneteenth, the day commemorating Black emancipation from slavery.
The president had been criticized for planning a rally on the holiday, specifically in Tulsa, the site of a 1921 racist massacre of Black people by white mobs. Trump said the rally will be on 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 wrote on Twitter late Friday. “I have therefore decided to move our rally to Saturday, June 20th, in order to honor their requests.”
The Tulsa massacre was one of the worst incidents of racist violence in the nation’s history.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who is Black, had called Trump’s rally, when it was planned for Juneteenth, a “welcome home party” for “white supremacists.” Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) called it a “slap in the face to African Americans.”
Pressed about Trump’s decision to hold a rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters Thursday that it was a “meaningful day” for Trump, adding, “The African American community is very near and dear to his heart.”
Trump has a long history of racism, including calling for the death penalty for the “Central Park Five,” the Black teens wrongfully accused of raping a white woman in New York, as well as pushing the racist “birther” conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was not born in the U.S. and could not become president. Since his election, Trump has referred to African and Black-majority nations as “shithole” countries and described the white nationalists who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 as “very fine people.”
Trump’s Oklahoma rally will be the first since he paused reelection campaign events amid the coronavirus pandemic. Trump’s campaign lists a legal disclaimer on its website that those who register for the rally “assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19.” The venue is an indoor arena with a 19,000-person capacity, and Trump said Friday that more than 200,000 people had requested tickets to attend.
The U.S. had recorded more than 2 million confirmed coronavirus cases as of Friday.