Trump Moves Tulsa Rally Date ‘Out of Respect’ for Juneteenth

President Trump bowed to pressure on Friday night and announced that he would delay his upcoming campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., rather than hold it on the day that honors the end of slavery in the United States and is considered a major holiday by many African-Americans.

The rally was originally set for next Friday, or June 19, the date known as Juneteenth, which marks the day in 1865 when Union soldiers arrived in Texas and read the Emancipation Proclamation announcing that slaves had been freed, the last of the Confederate states to officially receive the news.

The Trump campaign’s decision to hold a rally on Juneteenth in Tulsa, the site of one of the country’s bloodiest outbreaks of racist violence, generated vociferous criticism amid the national reckoning over race and justice in the United States following the killing of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer in Minneapolis pressed a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes. In a Twitter message shortly before midnight, Mr. Trump said he would move the rally to June 20 instead.

“We had previously scheduled our #MAGA Rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for June 19th — a big deal,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, however, this would fall on the Juneteenth Holiday. 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, and in observance of this important occasion and all that it represents. I have therefore decided to move our rally to Saturday, June 20th, in order to honor their requests.”

Democrats pounced on the original timing to denounce Mr. Trump for disrespecting the concerns of those calling for major changes in American society to address racism and police violence. The selection of Tulsa had also drawn complaints given its history as the site of a 1921 massacre by white mobs attacking black citizens and businesses with guns and explosives dropped from airplanes.

“This isn’t just a wink to white supremacists — he’s throwing them a welcome home party,” Senator Kamala Harris of California said after the original announcement.

Updated 2020-06-13T07:12:52.642Z

According to Republicans close to the president, the campaign was aware of the significance of the date once it announced the site but not before the site was selected. Once it was done, the campaign decided to move ahead, announcing the date before its contract with the event venue in Tulsa was even finalized, people briefed on the events said.

But the blowback was fierce. The White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, told reporters on Thursday that the date was significant to Mr. Trump, explaining why there was no issue with him holding the rally then. And in an interview taped the same day with Fox News, the president said that he had not realized the meaning of the date but that people should think of the rally as a “celebration.”

“The fact that I’m having a rally on that day, you can really think about that very positively as a celebration,” he told Fox. “There’s a rally, to me, is a celebration. It’s going to be really a celebration and it’s an interesting date. It wasn’t done for that reason, but it’s an interesting date. But it’s a celebration.”

The Fox News host who raised Juneteenth with him, Harris Faulkner, is a black woman who pressed him on issues related to race throughout their interview.

It was the rare instance of the president bending to criticism. He has backed down at times before, like from threats during budget fights with Democrats, particularly over funding for his desired wall along the southwestern border. Yet for the most part, Mr. Trump attacks and counterattacks with ferocity and rarely gives any sign that he is listening to his detractors.

Mr. Trump has condemned the killing of Mr. Floyd and called his family to offer his support, but he has focused most of his public comments in the past two weeks on a tough “law and order” message assailing the largely peaceful protests that at times turned violent. He has rejected the notion that there is systemic racism in law enforcement, declaring that 99.9 percent of police officers are “great, great people.”

He chose Oklahoma to begin holding rallies again — even though he won it by 36 percentage points in 2016 — in part because it was one of the earliest states to lift restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Mr. Trump said he also planned to hold rallies in Florida, Arizona and North Carolina, all of them key states in his campaign against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Campaign officials did not respond to an email seeking comment about the change, and it was not immediately clear how far in advance Mr. Trump had told his advisers he wanted the rally moved before he tweeted his statement. One person briefed on the events said campaign officials learned earlier Friday evening, but it was not clear when.

Even after the president’s tweet, a campaign official sent out one of her own tweets, which has since been deleted, promoting the rally with a link to a web page still listing it on June 19. Earlier in the evening, the Trump campaign manager, Brad Parscale, tweeted that he had received 300,000 ticket requests for the event.

The president’s tweet came not long after Mr. Trump hosted a dinner with Gov. Phil Murphy, Democrat of New Jersey, with whom the president has been in frequent touch about the pandemic.

Annie Karni contributed reporting.

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