By Associated Press
That has not reassured BOK Center management, who requested a written health and safety plan from the Trump campaign on Thursday. In a statement to Oklahoma City television station KFOR, rally organizers appeared unimpressed but said they would review the request.
The Trump campaign said Thursday that it takes “safety seriously,” noting that organizers are providing masks, hand sanitizers and doing temperature checks for all attendees.
“This will be a Trump rally, which means a big, boisterous, excited crowd,” the campaign said. “We don’t recall the media shaming [anti-racism] demonstrators about social distancing — in fact the media were cheering them on.”
Stitt, the governor, suggested in a Fox News interview that the campaign’s response was good enough for him:
Trump had originally been scheduled to speak on Friday. He changed the date amid an uproar that it would occur on Juneteenth, which marks the end of slavery in the U.S., and in a city where a 1921 white-on-black attack killed as many as 300 people. Black community leaders — some of whom characterized the originally targeted date as a slap in the face — said they still worry Saturday’s rally could spark violence.
Trump has been on a hiatus from the rallies that have been a centerpiece of his campaign — and indeed, unusually, his entire presidency — halting them since March 2 because of the spreading virus, which has killed more than 118,000 people in the U.S. But he has been eager to return to the events, which allow him to rally his base and build the campaign database of supporters. (Campaign manager Brad Parscale has crowed that the Tulsa arena is significantly oversubscribed — going on to describe those requesting the free tickets as having participated in a campaign “data haul.”)
Saturday’s rally also could provide a bit of diversion from criticism over Trump’s handling of the pandemic and the protests following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Rainey Strader, 48, who traveled to Tulsa from Iowa with her husband and 75-year-old mother, said she brought a mask but isn’t sure if she will wear it once she gets inside the venue. Strader said she isn’t worried about COVID-19, which she considers to be “like the flu.”
“It’s just a new thing, and everybody’s worried,” said Strader, who was working a word-search puzzle while she waited Thursday with her mother as her husband slept in their van. “It’s exaggerated.”
Strader’s mother, Catherine Pahsetopah, said she’s also not sure whether she will wear her mask, despite being considered high-risk for COVID-19 because of her age and health problems. She said she’s seen presidents come and go — all the way “back to Eisenhower” — and Trump ranks among the best.
“He’s great. He’s wonderful,” Pahsetopah said, adding: “If John Kennedy knew what happened to the Democratic Party he wouldn’t want them” because of their support for “aborting the babies.”
Delmer Phillips, 41, of Tulsa, described himself and others who showed up early for the rally as “front-row Joes” who are excited to get a glimpse of the president. He said he won’t wear a mask this weekend because he believes he may have already had the virus and has built up immunity.
“I’m personally not so worried about it,” he said. “I believe in God, and I don’t live in fear.”
MarketWatch contributed to this report.