President Donald Trump held his first campaign rally since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday evening. Despite claims that nearly one million people registered for tickets, the Tulsa Fire Department reported that about 6,2000 people attended the rally.
President Trump is reportedly “furious” about the “underwhelming” crowd. The rally was supposed to be his triumphant return to the campaign trail after a three-month break.
Many attributed the low turnout to fears about the spread of coronavirus, which were only heightened by the announcement that six Trump campaign staffers who worked on the event tested positive for the coronavirus.
President Trump’s plans for the rally had already been derailed by controversy. Amongst nation-wide protests over the epidemic of police killings of Black Americans, Trump chose the site of one of the most horrific acts of white supremacist terrorism in United States history.
On the night of June 1, 1921, a mob of white people raided the affluent Black neighborhood of Greenwood, known in Tulsa as the “Black Wall Street.” The riot began after a group of armed white men stormed the Greenwood courthouse and lynched Dick Rowland, a Black teenager who was arrested earlier that day after being falsely accused of rape by a white woman. The horde then fired indiscriminately on Black civilians and systematically torched nearly 40 square blocks, destroying homes, churches, businesses, a public library, and a hospital.
As many as 9,000 Black Tulsans were left houseless. The mob massacred approximately 300 people. Most of the bodies have never been recovered.
The rally was also originally planned for Friday, which happens to be Juneteenth. The holiday commemorates the day that federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to ensure that all enslaved people were freed, more than two years after the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Although his campaign team eventually changed the date, many believe that Trump chose the date and location for his rally intentionally.
“I think his actions speak for themselves,” said Oklahoma state senator Kevin Matthews, who is chair of the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission. “If it were an accident then you could correct that. If you didn’t intend it, then don’t come on this weekend and interrupt one of the most sacred holidays for Black people in this state.”
A wave of TikTok users, K-pop fans, and other social media users flooded the Trump campaign with ticket reservations before the event with no plans of attending in protest, which could have contributed to the low turnout.
Black Lives Matter protestors also demonstrated outside the rally on Saturday. One protestor, a 62-year-old art teacher named Sheila Buck, was arrested following demands from the Trump campaign, despite having purchased a ticket. President Trump’s son Eric Trump, who also spoke at the event, referred to the protestors as “animals” during his speech.
Despite the Tulsa rally being a “major failure,” the Trump campaign plans to move forward with more events this summer. Trump’s next rally is set for Phoenix, Arizona on Tuesday, despite pleas from the city’s mayor to reconsider due to a recent resurgence of coronavirus in Phoenix.
Sources: Democracy Now 6/22/2020; NBC News 6/21/2020; New York Times 6/21/2020; The Guardian 6/19/2020