On Wednesday, President Trump announced the return of his campaign rallies, to the exultation of President Trump. Rally attendees — for years thrilled by the events held whether or not they were in an election year — will surely also enjoy the homecoming event held in Tulsa, Oklahoma, next Friday. But if any of the crowd members at the city’s indoor Bank of Oklahoma Center are concerned about coronavirus transmission, they won’t have any legal recourse if they test positive for the virus that has killed over 113,000 Americans.
On Thursday, the Trump campaign sent out registration info for the president’s first rally since the coronavirus shutdown, including a waiver for attendees to agree to acknowledging the “inherent risk” of gathering in an enclosed space to yell for hours at a time. “By attending the rally, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and agree not to hold Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.,” or the venue liable “for any illness or injury,” the agreement read.
As the country reopens — despite 12 states experiencing record upticks in cases — and protesters around the nation gathering by the thousands to call for the end of police brutality against black Americans, personal calculations about pandemic risk are changing rapidly. But unlike the demonstrations, the Trump campaign reportedly doesn’t intend to enforce social-distancing measures or require attendees to wear masks. Rallygoers are also expected to be in the indoor arena for hours at a time. The doors for the event open four hours before the president is expected to speak and Trump, ever the entertainer, often shows up late and goes past the scheduled runtime — especially when he is expressing his frustrations, of which there are many since his last rally on March 8.
While Oklahoma is currently in phase three of the reopening process and is not experiencing a growth in cases, the president’s Juneteenth rally in a city known for a horrendous act of racist violence is not a one-off performance. Trump also announced that he would soon hold rallies in Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina — states currently experiencing a significant growth in cases. On Thursday, the Republican National Committee also confirmed that in late August, Trump would hold his convention speech in an indoor arena in Jacksonville, Florida, that holds 15,000 people. (The “celebratory” aspects of the Republican National Convention, including the president’s speech, were moved south after North Carolina governor Roy Cooper determined such an event would not be safe.) Similar to the suspect date and location of Trump’s homecoming rally, the speech in Jacksonville will be held on August 27, the 60th anniversary of the city’s “Ax Handle Saturday,” when white residents, organized by the Ku Klux Klan, attacked black demonstrators sitting at segregated lunch counters.