Thousands of Trump’s supporters filled the streets of downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday morning as they awaited the president’s first rally since the coronavirus pandemic swept across the country, but few people are wearing face masks despite warnings from health experts about large crowds.
Thousands of Trump supporters were already waiting in line early this morning—with many camping overnight—for the rally that will take place inside Tulsa’s BOK Center, which has a capacity of 19,000, on Saturday night.
Many attendees crowded together on the streets outside of the rally site, complete with gazebo tents and lawn chairs, though few people were wearing masks or social distancing.
“I don’t mind going into the arena with the pandemic and the spikes because that’s the beautiful thing about our country—I know that I am fully taking on the risk of possibly encountering or being exposed [to the virus], but as an American, that’s my right,” one Trump supporter told CNN.
Trump has faced criticism for holding the Tulsa rally even as the country still struggles with the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing protests against racial injustice sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis late last month.
By going ahead as planned with the rally in Tulsa, which has recently emerged as a new coronavirus hotspot, Trump is ignoring the concerns of his own top health experts: Many have cautioned that such a large gathering held indoors could lead to a further outbreak in cases.
But none of that has deterred Trump supporters, who insist that they’re not worried about the virus and have confidence in the president’s decision.
“I think [the coronavirus] has been hyped up more than it is…When you’re in your 70s, you can’t go hide in your basement,” Mary Legan, a supporter from Claremore, Oklahoma told NBC News. “If Trump felt comfortable having it here, then I’m comfortable.”
“We didn’t hear anything about the coronavirus for two weeks while the looting and protesting was going on and none of them were wearing masks,” another Trump supporter, Trish, who travelled from Springfield, Illinois, similarly told NBC. “And now that Trump is holding a rally it’s all we hear. The hypocrisy is unbelievable.”
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
President Trump on Friday warned of a crackdown on “any protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes” who show up at his Tulsa rally. The threat comes as the president continues to attack racial justice protesters: Referencing the demonstrations that broke out in cities across the country after Floyd’s death, Trump said any protesters at his event “will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seattle or Minneapolis.” On Thursday, Tulsa mayor G. T. Bynum issued a curfew amid fears of unrest, but that was later rescinded after Trump personally intervened.
The event was allowed to go ahead as planned after the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Friday rejected a bid to require the BOK center to enforce social distancing guidelines as per the CDC. Trump’s campaign has said that it will have coronavirus-prevention measures in place, including taking the temperature of attendees and providing masks—though not requiring they be worn. Trump’s rally was originally scheduled on June 19th, coinciding with Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, prompting the president to announce on Twitter that he was rescheduling the event.