As Donald Trump prepares to hold his first in-person rally since the coronavirus pandemic exploded in March, his campaign is taking steps to insulate itself from liability should the virus spread among the crowd.
While the president himself is publicly confident the outbreak is receding, and refuses to be seen wearing a mask, the online registration form for the 19 June rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma comes with an unusual set of terms and conditions.
By clicking register below,” reads the disclaimer, “you are acknowledging that an inherent risk of exposure to Covid-19 exists in any public place where people are present. By attending the Rally, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to Covid-19 and agree not to hold Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.; BOK Center; ASM Global; or any of their affiliates, directors, officers, employees, agents, contractors, or volunteers liable for any illness or injury.”
Oklahoma’s Republican governor, Kevin Stitt, was among the first in the country to lift lockdown restrictions on daily life and economic activity, and has since removed all limits on the size of indoor group gatherings. Mr Trump this week said the state has “done a great job with Covid”. However, on Thursday morning it announced 146 confirmed new cases and two deaths.
The rally was announced just as the president moved the Republican convention from North Carolina to Florida, citing North Carolina governor Roy Cooper’s refusal to guarantee he would allow a huge crowd to gather in an arena without masks.
All risks of coronavirus spread aside, the Tulsa rally has already attracted opprobrium because of its location and scheduling.
The city was the site of one of the worst incidents of mass racial violence in modern American history: the Tulsa Massacre of 1921, in which white mobs killed as many as 300 of Black people and destroyed more than 1,200 Black homes.
The rally is also scheduled for 19 June, or Juneteenth, which marks the emancipation of the last people enslaved by the Confederacy.
Since Oklahoma is both one of the safest Republican states in the US and also disproportionately white, the president’s critics have pointed out that the 19 June rally will therefore see the president addressing a likely overwhelmingly white crowd, on the site of an anti-black pogrom, as he calls for the police and the military to “dominate” protests against racism and police brutality against Black people.