WASHINGTON — After days of controversy over Donald Trump’s choice to hold his first rally since the coronavirus lockdowns in Tulsa, Oklahoma, — the site of one of the worst massacres of African Americans in the country’s history — on Juneteenth, the president announced he would change the date of the event.
“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,” Trump tweeted late Friday.
He announced the rally will now take place Saturday, June 20, rather than June 19, or Emancipation Day, the holiday commemorating the date in 1865 when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger traveled to Galveston, Texas, to inform residents that President Abraham Lincoln had freed the slaves and that slave owners had to comply with the Emancipation Proclamation.
Tulsa rally controversy:Trump says rally will be a ‘celebration’ of his campaign
Trump had stirred controversy for his decision over the first of several big campaign events. It will be his first rally since an event in Charlotte, North Carolina, on March 2. He had said in a Fox News interview that aired earlier Friday that the initial planning of the rally for Juneteenth in Tulsa was not deliberate, and brushed off the criticism.
“Think about it as a celebration. My rally is a celebration. In the history of politics, I think I can say there’s never been any group or any person that’s had rallies like I do,” Trump said in the interview. “I go and I just say, ‘Give me the biggest stadium and we fill it up every time.'”
Trump has never held a rally in Tulsa, and Oklahoma is a state he won by 36 percentage points in the 2016 election.
The rally comes after weeks of nationwide protests against racism and police brutality in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a Black man whose neck was pinned down by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for nearly nine minutes while Floyd cried he couldn’t breathe.
What is Juneteenth?:We explain the holiday that commemorates the end of slavery
Critics suggested the Trump campaign was being insensitive by holding a rally on such a significant day in a location where white people attacked Black Americans in 1921. Trump stood by the decision until abruptly changing course Friday evening.
When asked about why the campaign decided to hold the rally in Tulsa and on Juneteenth, senior Trump campaign adviser Katrina Pierson said in a statement Thursday, “as the party of Lincoln, Republicans are proud of the history of Juneteenth.”