Yesterday the President of the United States, Donald Trump, held what was expected to be a major rally for his 2020 election campaign, but the event didn’t quite go as planned. In stark contrast to Trump’s usual events, the venue was estimated to only be two thirds full. Tulsa, the site of the rally, was itself a controversial choice of location. This is due to the 1921 massacre that took place there, in which white mobs attacked black people and businesses, killing over 300 people.
The rally took place in a typically reliably republican region of the US, which made the president’s inability to fill a 19,000-capacity arena even more embarrassing and has led some to question his chances of re-election. Tweeting about the event, Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to Barack Obama, said “The Emperor has no crowd”.
The Trump campaign blamed both the media and protesters at the event for deterring the large crowds they had anticipated. Referring to these protesters, many of whom were Black Lives Matter activists, the president said that there were “very bad people outside, they were doing bad things”. Many of the Black Lives Matter protests across the US in recent weeks have had significantly higher attendance than Trump’s rally.
Speaking about these protests, the president said “The unhinged left-wing mob is trying to vandalise our history, desecrate our monuments – our beautiful monuments – tear down our statues and punish, cancel and persecute anyone who does not conform to their demands for absolute and total control. We’re not conforming.”
Trump began the rally by praising those who did attend, saying: “I just want to thank all of you, you are warriors. I’ve been watching the fake news for weeks now and everything is negative. Don’t go, don’t come, don’t do anything. Today it was like, I’ve never seen anything like it”.
Despite warnings of the risks of holding a large indoor gathering during a pandemic, the president has consistently played down the COVID-19 outbreak. Speaking to the crowd, Trump blamed high testing rates for the number of US cases: “Here is the bad part: When you do testing to that extent, you are going to find more people, you will find more cases…So I said ‘slow the testing down’. They test and they test.” The White House later said of these comments that the president was “obviously kidding”. Additionally, those in attendance were asked to sign waivers which protect the Trump campaign from any responsibility for illness. There have so far been around 120,000 deaths due to the coronavirus outbreak in the US.