TULSA, Okla. — President Donald Trump pressed ahead with his comeback rally in the midst of a pandemic Saturday by declaring “the silent majority is stronger than ever before."
But what was meant to be a show of defiant political force in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was instead met with thousands of empty seats and new coronavirus cases on his own campaign staff.
Watch the rally below:
The rally was intended to be the largest indoor gathering in the world during the outbreak that has killed more than 120,000 Americans. But in the hours before the event, crowds seemed significantly lighter than expected.
Campaign officials scrapped plans for Trump to first address an overflow space before he spoke at the BOK Center. No reason was given for the cancellation of the outdoor rally outside the venue. Images posted on social media showed few people in the outdoor area.
Thousands of Trump supporters and protesters gathered on the streets despite concerns about the coronavirus and fears that the politically charged environment could lead to violent conflicts.
The rally, originally scheduled for Friday, was changed to observe Juneteenth. Still, many demonstrators appeared on behalf of the Black Lives Matter movement to protest the recent deaths of black men in police custody.
The Tulsa event was the president’s re-election rally in more than 100 days. Others were called off due to the ongoing pandemic.
Health experts worry the rally will become a new hotspot for coronavirus infections. Oklahoma is seeing a steady increase in its average of new confirmed cases per day and Tulsa County has the most confirmed cases in the state.
The vast majority of those in attendance bucked the guidance of health care experts and did not wear a mask, following the lead of a president who has insisted on not wearing a mask in public. Trump applauded those in attendance as warriors.
Trump suggested during the rally that he has told members of his administration to slow the rate of coronavirus testing in the U.S. Trump said the country has tested 25 million people, and far more than any other country. He also told the crowd that more testing leads to finding more cases of people who test positive.
Trump said that “so I said to my people slow the testing down, please.”
During his speech, Trump sought to tie the destruction of monuments and statues around the country to Democratic leaders, including his likely rival in the presidential election, Joe Biden.
Trump said, “the choice in 2020 is very simple. Do you want to bow before the left-wing mob, or do you want to stand up tall and proud as Americans?”
Statues have been destroyed in numerous cities amid continuing anti-racism demonstrations following the May 25 police killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd, the African American man who died in police custody.
Trump said, “Biden remains silent in his basement in the face of this brutal assault on our nation and the values of our nation. Joe Biden has surrendered to his party and to the left-wing mob.”