U.S. President Donald Trump has changed the controversial date of his first political rally since large portions of the country were locked down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
In a late night tweet Friday, the president said the Tulsa, Oklahoma, event will instead be held on June 20 instead on June 19.
June 19, also known as Juneteenth, is the date in 1865 when slaves in Texas were informed they were free, nearly 2½ years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. It is celebrated around the country as the end of slavery in the U.S.
“Many of my African American friends and supporters have reached out to suggest that we consider changing the date out... of respect for this Holiday, and in observance of this important occasion and all that it represents. I have therefore decided to move our rally to Saturday, June 20th, in order to honor their requests,” Trump posted on Twitter.
The president has been widely criticized for both the date and the location of the rally because they are significant in the history of brutal racism that African American have faced in the United States.
This month’s rally takes place as protests around the country are decrying systemic racism in the U.S.
Black Wall Street
In 1921, there was a vicious attack by whites in Tulsa on what had become known as Black Wall Street, an affluent African American section of the city. Historians now say at least 300 people were killed. For years, the official death toll hovered around 30.
Sherry Gamble Smith, the president of Tulsa’s Black Wall Street Chamber of Commerce, had said Trump coming to Tulsa on June 19 was a “a slap in the face.” She suggested that he should come the following day.
Sen. Kamala Harris of California, a former Democratic candidate to oppose Trump in November’s election, had posted on Twitter that the June 19 rally in Tulsa was not “just a wink to white supremacists – he’s throwing them a welcome home party.”
'Very near and dear'
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Thursday that the African American community is “very near and dear” to the president’s “heart.”
Black leaders say Trump has not championed the rights of African Americans. While many people are now calling for the names of military bases named after Confederate military leaders to be changed, Trump has not given the move any consideration.
Trump was the rallying force behind the birther movement during former President Barack Obama’s administration, saying that the country’s first African American president was not born in the United States.
In the 1980s, Trump called for reinstatement of the death penalty for five teenage black boys who were falsely accused of raping a Central Park jogger.
The rally will be held at Tulsa’s BOK Center, which seats nearly 20,000 people. Meghan Blood, the site’s marketing director, told the Associated Press Thursday that she had not been informed of any social distancing plans or any other coronavirus precautions.
A disclaimer has been issued on the ticket registration website for the president’s gathering absolving the Trump’s campaign of any liability for any exposure to COVID-19 and any illness.
The president’s own public health officials have warned against large gatherings as COVID-19 deaths continue to climb and have urged people to at least wear masks in public, something Trump has refused to do.