Trump presses ahead with Tulsa rally, alarming health officials

TULSA, Oklahoma: Gathering a smaller-than-expected crowd, President Donald Trump sought to reinvigorate his re-election campaign on Saturday (Jun 20) with a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, amid anti-racism protests in cities across the country and a still-strong coronavirus pandemic.

Trump has come under fire for his responses to the coronavirus and to the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in the custody of Minneapolis police.

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He has brushed aside criticism for his decision to hold his first rally since Mar 2 in Tulsa, the site of the country's bloodiest outbreaks of racist violence against Black Americans some 100 years ago.

"Oklahoma and America need four more years of President Donald Trump in the White House!" Vice President Mike Pence told cheering supporters ahead of Trump's address at the 19,000-seat BOK Center arena, where many empty seats were visible.

Trump campaign officials had said prior to the event that demand far outstripped the capacity of the venue.

Hours before the rally, Trump's campaign announced six members of its advance team had tested positive for COVID-19.

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Only a handful of attendees wore masks inside the arena.

Oklahoma has reported a surge in new COVID-19 infections in recent days, and the state's department of health has warned that attendees at the 19,000-seat BOK Center venue face an increased risk of catching the virus.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence canceled addresses to an expected "overflow" crowd after "protesters interfered with supporters", Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh said according to a pool report.

Television images showed a dozen or so Trump supporters in the “spillover” area watching the event on a large screen.

The Republican president is trailing the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, in polls ahead of the November election.

Kevin and Joan Hansston drove from Illinois for their eighth Trump rally and said it was hypocritical to be concerned about coronavirus at the event after weeks of mass protests over the death of George Floyd.

"Trump has a rally and all of a sudden we're concerned about it again," said Kevin Hansston, 65, who was not wearing a mask.

A supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump sits in a tent, a day before Trump's rally, near the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S., June 19, 2020. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

Tulsa Police reported one arrest after the Trump Campaign asked them to remove a "Ms Buck" from a private event area and she refused to leave. Police tweeted a photo of a white woman wearing a black t-shirt reading "I can't breathe" sitting on the ground speaking to an officer.

There were scuffles outside the event center between Black Lives Matter protesters and Trump supporters.

"Racists go home," shouted a woman with a Black Lives Matter shirt.

A small group of armed men could be seen outside the event. One of them told reporters they were there in case "antifa" protesters turned violent, using the acronym for "anti-facist" .

The country's racial divide remains a political vulnerability for Trump. His "law and order" reaction to the protests triggered by Floyd's death has put him at odds with the views of most Americans.

After intense criticism, Trump postponed the rally by a day so that it did not coincide with the anniversary of the Jun 19 commemoration of the end of Black slavery in the United States.

On Friday, he threatened unspecified action against any "protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes" who travels to Oklahoma, a warning that his campaign said Read More – Source