21 June 2020 10:37

Just hours before the rally began, Trump campaign officials said six staff members tested positive for coronavirus.

Protesters face off as Trump holds first rally in months

(AP) — President Donald Trump launched his comeback rally Saturday by defining the upcoming election as a stark choice between national heritage and left-wing radicalism. But his intended show of political force amid a pandemic featured thousands of empty seats and new coronavirus cases on his own campaign staff. Trump ignored health warnings to hold his first rally in 110 days — one of the largest indoor gatherings in the world during a coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 120,000 Americans and put 40 million out of work. In the hours before the rally, crowds were significantly lighter than expected, and campaign officials scrapped plans for Trump to address an overflow space outdoors. When Trump thundered that "the silent majority is stronger than ever before," about a third of the seats at his indoor rally were empty.

Trump tried to explain away the crowd size by blaming the media for scaring people and by insisting there were protesters outside who were "doing bad things." But the small crowds of pre-rally demonstrators were largely peaceful, and Tulsa police reported just one arrest Saturday afternoon. Before the rally, Trump's campaign revealed that six staff members who were helping set up for the event had tested positive for the coronavirus. The president raged to aides that the staffers' positive cases had been made public, according to two White House and campaign officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly about private conversations. Trump devoted more than 10 minutes of his 105-minute rally — with the crowd laughing along — trying to explain away a pair of odd images from his speech last weekend at West Point, blaming his slippery leather-soled shoes for video of him walking awkwardly down a ramp as he left the podium. "The unhinged left-wing mob is trying to vandalize our history, desecrate our monuments, our beautiful monuments," Trump said.

The rally was scheduled over the protests of local health officials as COVID-19 cases spike in many states, while the choice of host city and date — it was originally set for Friday, Juneteenth, in a city where a 1921 racist attack killed as many as 300 people — prompted anger amid a national wave of protests against racial injustice. The president's campaign tried to point fingers elsewhere over the smaller-than-expected crowds, accusing protesters of blocking access to metal detectors and preventing people from entering the rally. An outdoor speech at the first rally by US President Donald Trump since the coronavirus outbreak was abandoned on Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Just hours earlier, it had been revealed that six members of Mr Trump's campaign team had tested positive for coronavirus. He went on to describe testing for the coronavirus as a "double-edged sword" - saying that 25 million people had been tested in the US but "when you do testing to that extent, you're going to find more people, you're going to find more cases, so I said to my people 'slow the testing down please'." A White House official said later that Mr Trump was "obviously kidding" with that remark.

"There were three record numbers of cases of COVID in Tulsa, in the very city, that he actually had to have the Supreme Court of Oklahoma actually ruled that they wouldn't enforce the social distancing or mask coverings for faces during this thing. "Speaking of his team that set up this rally, six members of Trump's advanced team did acknowledge that they had tested positive for COVID. Outdoor speech abandoned at Trump rally in Oklahoma The rally at the BOK stadium in Tulsa, Oklahoma, had been promoted as a comeback opportunity for Mr Trump - a chance to boost his campaign for re-election in November. But in the hours before Mr Trump started speaking, crowds appeared to be significantly lighter than expected and campaign officials scrapped plans for him to first address an overflow space. Mr Trump blamed the news media for saying "don't go, don't come, don't do anything", adding: "We begin our campaign...

He also blamed a group of Black Lives Matter protesters outside, a group also smaller than expected but largely peaceful, described by him as "the unhinged left-wing mob". Main image: US President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Donald Trump's first rally since the coronavirus lockdown gained a lower turnout than expected after it went ahead despite health warnings. The US president held his first rally in 110 days in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday night, where positive cases are still rising, according to the city's mayor. Republican officials said earlier this week that one million people had asked for tickets to the rally.

Mr Trump accounted for the empty seats by saying that "very bad people outside... People at the rally had to sign a waiver saying that Mr Trump's campaign did not have any responsibility if they got ill. Just hours before the rally began, Trump campaign officials said six staff members tested positive for coronavirus. Mr Trump also discussed his response to coronavirus, saying that too much testing was making him look bad. He said: "Here is the bad part: When you do testing to that extent, you are going to find more people, you will find more cases. An official for the Trump campaign later said he was "clearly joking". President Donald Trump's supporters faced off with protesters shouting "Black Lives Matter" on Saturday in Oklahoma as the president took the stage for his first campaign rally in months. The Trump faithful gathered inside the 19,000-seat BOK Centre for what was believed to be the largest indoor event in the country since restrictions to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus began in March. Mr Trump had been scheduled to appear at a rally outside of the stadium within a perimeter of tall metal barriers but that event was abruptly cancelled. Trump campaign officials said protesters prevented the president's supporters from entering the stadium. Three Associated Press journalists reporting in Tulsa for several hours leading up to the president's speaking did not see protesters block entry to the area where the rally was held. Pink has mocked Donald Trump after his Tulsa rally failed to draw in anything close to the one million people the president had claimed would attend. The event took place in the 19,000-capacity BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where there were thousands of empty seats. Six staff members involved in organising the rally tested positive for coronavirus. At the rally, Trump told supporters he had asked for the rate of coronavirus testing to be slowed down because there were so many positive cases being found in the United States.