U.S. President Donald Trump held his first rally in more than three months in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday evening, amid coronavirus concerns and a national reckoning over racism.
Speaking to a crowd of supporters inside the BOK Center, Trump touted his policies and judicial nominees, tore into Democrats and media, and touched upon a series of national issues, including the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 2.2 million people and taken nearly 120,000 lives in the United States.
The president blamed the numbers on testing, a claim that has been widely disputed. “When you do testing to that extent, you are gonna find more people, you’re gonna find more cases.
So I said to my people slow the testing down please,” he said. “They test and they test. We have tests that people don’t know what’s going on.”
Trump made the remarks only hours after his campaign spokesman revealed that six staffers helping organizing the Tulsa rally have tested positive for the coronavirus. A White House official told reporters later that Trump was joking about slowing down testing.
Attendees of the rally, who have been asked to sign a waiver releasing the Trump campaign from responsibility for possible exposure to the coronavirus, received a mask from organizers before entering the event, but most of them didn’t wear it inside the arena, which can hold 19,000 people.
Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, has said that he wouldn’t personally attend rallies. “I’m in a high risk category. Personally, I would not.
Of course not,” Fauci told an interview with Daily Beast earlier this week, adding that when it came to Trump’s rallies “outside is better than inside, no crowd is better than crowd” and “crowd is better than big crowd.
“The Saturday rally also came as U.S. states and cities have begun removing statues of Confederate figures amid a national reckoning over police brutality and racism sparked by the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, who died on May 25 after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Floyd’s death has triggered weeks-long demonstrations across the country, as well as calls from lawmakers and activists for the removal of monuments in memory of figures believed to be symbols of racism, while some Confederate statues have already been toppled by protesters.
During his nearly two-hour remarks on Saturday, Trump slammed the movement.”The unhinged left-wing mob is trying to vandalize our history, desecrate our monuments, our beautiful monuments, tear down our statues, and punish, cancel and persecute anyone who does not conform to their demands for absolute and total control. We’re not conforming,” he said.
Trump also spoke at length complaining about media coverage of his slow walk down a ramp after giving the commencement address at the U.S. Military Academy, also known as West Point, last week, which has fueled questions about his health.
He explained that he was wearing “leather-bottom shoes” and that the ramp “was like an ice-skating rink,” stressing that “I can’t fall with the fake news watching.”
There were multiple groups of demonstrators with varying viewpoints in the area adjacent to the rally, but the Tulsa Police Department tweeted Saturday night, “Overwhelmingly these encounters have been peaceful.”
The rally was previously scheduled on Friday, the Juneteenth, a day that memorializes the end of slavery in the United States, but Trump rescheduled it for Saturday after strong pushback, as Tulsa was home to one of the worst incidents of racial violence in the nation’s history, where dozens of African Americans were massacred 99 years ago.
Trump’s last rally was held in Charlotte, North Carolina on March 2.