Trump Campaign Sets Controversial Rally Stop for Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Juneteenth amid Pandemic
President Donald Trump's chosen destination and date for his next campaign rally is causing controversy.
On Wednesday, Trump, 73, announced plans to hold a campaign stop in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 19. Both the location and the date sparked outrage among many who detest bringing his sometimes-racially insensitive rhetoric to a historically significant place for racial injustice.
In 1921, the Tulsa Race Massacre saw a prospering African American community — known as Black Wall Street — looted and destroyed by white rioters. According to the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum, 24 hours of violence resulted in 35 city blocks being burned and about 300 deaths.
The devastating true story of racism and destruction has been portrayed in pop culture recently in shows like HBO's Watchmen, and several documentaries are set to cover the history of the massacre, including an upcoming project produced by NBA star Russell Westbrook.
The date chosen by the president for the appearance, June 19 — also known as Juneteenth — is the anniversary of the end of slavery, dating back to 1865. It's a holiday on which millions observe the pivotal moment in African American history.
Wrote Trump's former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, "Trump’s decision to hold a rally in Tulsa, the location of the single worst incident of racial violence in American history, on Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the freeing of slaves, is abhorrent and a wink at his racist supporters. He doesn’t even need votes in Oklahoma."
Echoed political strategist Atima Omara, "This is not an accident. Trump is holding his first rally of the campaign on Juneteenth (when enslaved blacks were emancipated) in Tulsa almost a 100 years after the massacre of its black citizens. Forget dog whistle, this is an air raid siren."
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Trump's re-election campaign adviser Katrina Pierson supported the timing of the visit. "As part of the party of Lincoln, Republicans are proud of the history of Juneteenth, which is the anniversary of the last reading of the Emancipation Proclamation," said Pierson in a statement, according to Business Insider.
On Wednesday, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said he is "honored" that Trump chose the state as the return of his campaign trail after months sidelined by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
"We are honored President Trump accepted our invitation to our great state. The President is making Oklahoma his first campaign stop since March 2, and his visit here confirms Oklahoma is the national example in responsibly and safely reopening," Stitt said in a statement.
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A spokesperson for the Trump campaign did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.
Next week's rally comes as the United States surpasses 2 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus and more than 113,000 deaths, per data compiled by The New York Times. Trump also expressed intentions to hold upcoming "big" rallies in Florida, Texas, and Arizona
"Americans are ready to get back to action and so is President Trump. The Great American Comeback is real and the rallies will be tremendous," campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement to NBC News earlier this week.