(Reuters) – President Donald Trump is facing criticism for his decision to hold a campaign rally next week on Juneteenth, a holiday marking the end of U.S. slavery, in a city known for a race massacre in 1921.
The Republican president said on Wednesday his campaign would hold its first rally since the coronavirus shuttered most of the country three months ago on June 19 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a heavily Republican state he won by more than 36 points in 2016.
The campaign is requiring attendees to agree that they will not sue if they contract the illness while attending the event.
June 19 is known as Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States in 1865 and celebrated as African Americans’ Independence Day.
The rally comes amid deep unrest in the country over the killing of George Floyd, an African-American man, by a white Minneapolis policeman. Floyd’s death sparked nationwide and international protests demanding an end to racism and police brutality.
Senator Kamala Harris, considered a top contender to be Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s running mate in the Nov. 3 election, blasted Trump’s decision to hold the rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth.
“This isn’t just a wink to white supremacists – he’s throwing them a welcome home party,” she tweeted on Thursday.
U.S. Representative Al Green, a Congressional Black Caucus member, tweeted: “Trump rally with rebel flags (a symbol of slavery and racism) in Tulsa, OK (the place of #TulsaMassacre) on Juneteenth (a day of emancipation recognition) is more than a slap in the face to African Americans; it is overt racism from the highest office in the land.”
In 1921, Tulsa was the site of one of the country’s bloodiest outbreaks of racist violence, when white mobs attacked black citizens and businesses with guns and explosives dropped from airplanes.
Katrina Pierson, senior adviser to the Trump campaign, said Republicans, as the party of Abraham Lincoln, were proud of the history of Juneteenth.
“President Trump has built a record of success for Black Americans, including unprecedented low unemployment prior to the global pandemic, all-time high funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and criminal justice reform,” Pierson said in a statement.
(Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)