President Donald Trump’s plans for a massive rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, continue to evolve as his team looks to re-launch campaign events that were put on hold in the wake of coronavirus.
Saturday’s rally is still scheduled to take place at BOK Center, but the campaign is exploring an additional venue designed to work as an overflow location to help accommodate the overwhelming response of supporters hoping to see the President speak.
During an interview on Fox News, Vice President Mike Pence suggested that the additional venue could be outdoors.
“I can tell you is it’s all a work in progress and we’ve had such an overwhelming response that we’re also looking at another venue. We’re also looking at outside activities and I know the campaign team will keep people informed as that goes forward,” Pence said.
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The campaign says more than one million people have RSVPd for the event, and a Trump campaign official confirmed to CNN that while other venues are being explored, the main event planned for the BOK Center is not moving. The BOK Center is an indoor arena that can hold around 20,000 people, and the campaign plans to fill it to capacity.
The additional venue would accommodate supporters that do not fit into the arena and the campaign said it is “likely” that Trump would appear in front of that group in person as well.
On Monday, Trump teased the possibility of a second venue, suggesting the nearby convention center, which can accommodate 40,000 people, may be part of the event.
“I think we’re going to have a great time,” Trump said. “We expect to have – you know, it’s like a record-setting crowd. We’ve never had an empty seat.”
The campaign said plans to use the convention center have not been finalized. They are still exploring several venues as a possible overflow location, but the location they settle on will be “adjacent” to the BOK Center.
The wrinkle of an additional venue is just one example of a series of adjustments the campaign has been forced to make to pull the event off. The President made the surprise announcement of plans to go to Oklahoma during an event at the White House last Wednesday.
The rally was originally planned for June 19, or Juneteenth, the holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. The outcry to the date selection was fierce. It came as protests were raging all over the country over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis. It was also criticized as tone deaf because of the location.
Tulsa is the site of the the Black Wall Street massacre of 1921, which claimed the lives of some 300 African Americans.
As the outrage over the date of the rally grew, Trump adjusted, announcing plans to move the rally to Saturday and acknowledging the concern about holding the rally on Juneteenth.
“Many of my African-American friends and supporters have reached out to suggest that we consider changing the date out of respect for the Holiday and in observance of this important occasion and all that it represents,” Trump tweeted. “I therefore decided to move our rally to Saturday, June 20th, in order to honor their requests.”
The coronavirus pandemic also remains a real threat and one that could pose a serious risk for those who attend the event. Public health officials both on the ground in Tulsa and within the President’s own administration have warned about the potential risks.
The Tulsa city-county Health Department Director David Bart pleaded with the President to postpone the event and Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the President’s coronavirus task force, warned that large-scale indoor events are very risky at this stage of the pandemic. The BOK Center where the rally is taking place has canceled or postponed all other events at the venue through the end of July.
Rallygoers that RSVP for the event ahead of time must agree to a disclaimer that is designed to absolve the campaign of liability should an attendee contract the virus. Campaign officials say they have plans to take the temperature of every person who enters the building as well as offer hand sanitizer and masks. Wearing the masks, however, will not be required and the campaign concedes that there will be no attempt at social distancing.
Despite these concerns, the Trump team believes now is the time to turn the page on the coronavirus.
“The freedom of speech, the right to peacefully assemble is enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution and the President and I are very confident that we’re going to be able to restart these rallies to tell the story of what the President has done thorough these unprecedented times but also over the last three and a half years,” Pence told Fox.