Trump changes date of Tulsa rally to avoid clash with Juneteenth slavery anniversary after criticism

President claims shift comes 'out of respect' for the holiday

Doina Chiacu,Lisa Lambert
Saturday 13 June 2020 12:55 BST
Harris Faulkner explains to Trump what 'when the looting starts the shooting starts' means

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Louise Thomas

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Donald Trump said on Friday he would shift the date of an Oklahoma rally from 19 June, the date of Juneteenth, to the next day out of respect for a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the US.

Amid protests against racial injustice, Mr Trump had faced criticism for scheduling his first campaign rally in months on a day known by African Americans as Freedom Day and in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a city where white mobs massacred African-Americans a century ago.

"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," Mr Trump tweeted. "I have therefore decided to move our rally to Saturday, 20 June, in order to honour their requests."

Mr Trump, seeking reelection on 3 November, scheduled the Tulsa rally on 19 June, the date in 1865 when Texas became the last of the pro-slavery Confederate states forced to comply with Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil War declaring all people held as slaves to be free.

Tulsa, a city important in African-American history, in 1921 was the site of one of the bloodiest outbreaks of racist violence in US history in which white mobs attacked black residents and businesses.

Referring to his rally, Mr Trump told Fox News in an interview aired earlier on Friday: "Think about it as a celebration."

The Republican president suspended his political rallies in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Mr Trump denied that scheduling the Tulsa rally on Juneteenth was deliberate.

The rally will take place against a backdrop of protests around the US against racism and police brutality sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed in police custody in Minneapolis on 25 May after a white officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. The officer was fired and has been charged with second-degree murder.

Fox News interviewer Harris Faulkner, who is black, later said she was not sure whether Mr Trump was aware of the painful history of Tulsa for African-Americans because her questions in the interview, held on Thursday, focused on the Juneteenth date of the rally.

Mt Zion Baptist Church burns after being torched by white mobs during the 1921 Tulsa massacre
Mt Zion Baptist Church burns after being torched by white mobs during the 1921 Tulsa massacre (AP)

"This isn't just a wink to white supremacists - he's throwing them a welcome home party," senator Kamala Harris, a contender to be Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's vice presidential pick, tweeted on Thursday.

Mr Trump, who this week rejected calls to rename US military bases named for Confederate military figures, said in the Fox News interview that what Lincoln had done was "questionable", but was cut off before he could elaborate.

"I think I've done more for the black community than any other president. And let's take a pass on Abraham Lincoln 'cause he did good, although it's always questionable. You know, in other words the end result," Mr Trump said without explanation.

Ms Faulkner then spoke over him saying: "But we are free, Mr President. He did pretty well."

"We are free. You understand what I mean. I'm going to take a pass on Abe - Honest Abe as we call him," Mr Trump responded.

Democrats and other critics have accused Mr Trump of stoking racial divisions.

The president said during the Floyd protests in which looting occurred in some cities that "when the looting starts, the shooting starts". Mr Trump told Fox News he was not aware that this phrase originated with a white segregationist who was Miami mayor in the 1960s.

On Thursday, the Republican Party scheduled Mr Trump's speech to formally accept its presidential nomination for 27 August in Jacksonville, Florida.

That day will mark the 60th anniversary of what is called "Axe Handle Saturday", when a white mob wielding axe handles began a riot over black youth attempting to order food from a lunch counter that only served white people in Jacksonville.


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