President Donald Trump returned to the campaign trail on Saturday to his supporters gathered at a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, amid the coronavirus pandemic and the nationwide protests occurring across the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
Trump’s rally was held at the Bank of Oklahoma Center, which seats a total of 19,000 guests. Though Trump, 74, anticipated a packed audience, the upper decks of the arena remained empty.
And less than two hours before the rally, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were expected to make remarks to the overflow crowd outside the arena. However, after supporters did not gather in the outdoor areas, plans to address the overflow crowd were canceled.
Before entering, rally attendees reportedly had the option to have their temperatures checked and be given masks and hand sanitizer for the large indoor event. Inside the event, many did not appear to be wearing face masks despite coronavirus concerns.
Trump, who did not wear a face mask, took to the stage and addressed his supporters, referring to the coronavirus as “Cove-ed,” “the Chinese virus” and “Kung Flu,” and telling the crowd: “To be specific, COVID-19. That name gets further and further away from China, as opposed to calling it the Chinese virus.”
Speaking about testing, Trump said he urged his team to “slow down the testing,” adding, “When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases. So I said to my people, ‘slow the testing down, please.’ They test and they test.”
Trump also defended the Confederacy amid the controversy surrounding the removal of Confederate statues. “The unhinged left-wing mob is trying to vandalize our history, desecrate our monuments. Our beautiful monuments,” he said as the crowd booed. The president continued to condemn Democrats, who he said are tearing “down our statues and punish, cancel and persecute anyone who does not conform to their demands for absolute and total control,” adding, “We’re not conforming, that’s why we’re here actually. This cruel campaign of censorship and exclusion violates everything we hold dear as Americans.”
Pence also spoke at the rally. “We will always put the health of America first,” he said as he vowed to “keep building supplies” and “develop medicines and vaccines.”
Others who gave remarks included Kimberly Guilfoyle, Lara Trump and Eric Trump, who called protesters “animals” during his speech.
Many were concerned about Trump holding a rally due to the indoor event potentially exposing attendees to the coronavirus — a fact the Trump campaign recognized when it forced ticket-buyers to sign a waiver preventing them from suing if they test positive for the coronavirus afterward.
Hours prior to the rally’s start, the Trump campaign announced that six staffers who helped set up the event have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Associated Press. Tim Murtaugh, the campaign’s communications director, said “quarantine procedures” were followed, and the sick employees would not attend the event.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images People wait to attend a rally with President Donald Trump this evening at the BOK Center on Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
According to USA Today, the atmosphere surrounding the event early in the day was “celebratory,” with Trump supporters proudly swaying American flags and holding up Trump 2020 signs, though many were without face coverings.
Trump his currently seeking re-election in November, and is set to face off against the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President, Joe Biden.
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