President Donald Trump defended his decision to hold a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 19, the day marking the end of slavery in the United States. Tulsa is also the site of the Tulsa race massacre, when mobs of white residents attacked black residents and businesses with guns and bombs dropped from above by private aircraft, leveling an entire section of the city and killing an estimated hundreds of people.
The scheduled rally will also take place as the nation grapples with a national conversation about systemic racism sparked by the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis and whose death set off protests across the nation and around the world.
“Think about it as a celebration,” Trump told Fox News in an interview broadcast this morning.
Trump’s move has earned significant criticism. New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg decried it in an op-ed, writing, “There’s simply no reason to believe that Trump is going to Tulsa to try to ease intercommunal hostility, rather than exacerbate it.”
Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif) said the decision “isn’t just a wink to white supremacists – he’s throwing them a welcome home party.”
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the president, saying the day is a “meaningful” one for him.
“The African American community is very near and dear to his heart,” McEnany told reporters. “At these rallies he often shares the great work he has done for minority communities.”
“It’s a meaningful day to him,” she continued. “It’s a day where he wants to share some of the progress that’s been made as we look forward at more that needs to be done, especially as we’re looking at this police reform.”