Concerns are swirling ahead of President Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., on Saturday, as many fear the event will further agitate unrest and tensions amid the civil rights protests, and become a “super-spreader” of the coronavirus.
The timing and location surrounding President Trump’s rally have been hotly debated; the rally was initially scheduled on Juneteenth, the day commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S., and is being held in Tulsa, where the Tulsa Race Massacre, one of the worst acts of racial violence in the country’s history, took place 99 years ago.
Speaking with The Daily Beast, Oklahoma state Rep. Regina Goodwin describes scenes of supporters sitting in encampments, arriving early in line to ensure they have optimal seats. Some are bearing Confederate gear just blocks away from the site of the 1921 race massacre on Black Wall Street.
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“The point is to rally his base, and they are out there on this sidewalk wanting to be the first in line,” Goodwin said. “I’ve seen people out there sleeping with the Confederate flag symbol. Because of the racist elements that he attracts, you’re adding fuel to the fire of the racial tensions in Tulsa.”
The rally also comes amid weeks of protests calling out systemic racism and police brutality. The demonstrations were sparked by the death of George Floyd, who died when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes during an arrest. Protesters are also demanding justice for Breonna Taylor, who was shot by police officers in her home in Louisville, Ky., and Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed by white shooters in Georgia.
Outside of the civil unrest seen in the past weeks, multiple public health experts have also raised concerns over the dangers of holding a large gathering like a campaign event during a pandemic. As a state, Oklahoma is already seeing upticks in new cases, one hotspot being Tulsa itself.
“The state was open too soon and this was predicted, and that’s what we’re getting,” said Goodwin.
According to state health department data, there are currently 9,354 confirmed coronavirus infections in Oklahoma, up 5.1 percent from the previous day.
“It’s likely that an event like this, at this particular moment, is going to be a super-spreader event,” Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University told The Daily Beast.
Anthony Fauci, a leading infectious disease expert and key member of the White House coronavirus task force, confirmed that he would not attend, given the choice, citing his own high-risk demographic as a 79-year-old man.
The White House said earlier this week that attendees are making a gamble as to whether or not they will be infected. Masks and hand sanitizer will be available, but are not mandatory.
“When you come to a rally, as with any event, you assume a personal risk. That is what you do. When you go to a baseball game, you assume a risk. That is part of life. It is the personal decision of Americans as to whether to go to the rally or whether not to go to the rally,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said.
Attendees will be asked to sign a waiver acknowledging this personal risk and waiving the Trump campaign of any liability.
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