FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump is applauded as he attends a roundtable discussion with members of the faith community, law enforcement and small business at Gateway Church Dallas Campus in Dallas, Texas, U.S., June 11, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump defended his decision to resume campaign rallies next week on a day marking the end of U.S. slavery and at the site of a black massacre 100 years ago, saying it would be a celebration.
The Republican president drew criticism for scheduling the rally on June 19, known as Juneteenth, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where white mobs attacked black citizens and businesses in one of the country’s bloodiest outbreaks of racist violence.
The rally will take place amid a backdrop of widespread protests against racism in the country after the death of a 46-year-old black man at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, who is accused of murdering him. Trump has been criticized for trying to militarize the U.S. response to the protests.
“Think about it as a celebration,” Trump told Fox News in an interview broadcast on Friday, in which he then boasted about the size of his campaign rallies.
In the interview, Trump denied the Juneteenth date for the rally was on purpose.
The Fox interviewer, an African American, later said she was not sure if he was aware of the painful history of Tulsa to black Americans because her questions in the interview, which took place on Thursday, focused on the Juneteenth aspect of the visit.
Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States in 1865 and is celebrated as African Americans’ Independence Day.
“This isn’t just a wink to white supremacists – he’s throwing them a welcome home party,” Senator Kamala Harris, a contender to be Joe Biden’s vice presidential pick, said on Twitter on Thursday.
On Thursday, the Republican Party scheduled Trump’s speech accepting the Republican presidential nomination in Jacksonville on Aug. 27. That day will mark the 60th anniversary of what is called “Ax Handle Saturday,” when a white mob wielding ax handles began a riot over black youth attempting to order food from a whites-only lunch counter in the Florida city.
Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Lisa Lambert; Editing by Steve Orlofsky