Trump's Saturday rally: What to know as 100,000 expected to flock to downtown Tulsa

TULSA -- President Donald Trump's Saturday rally in Tulsa is shaping up to be one of the biggest indoor events in the U.S. since the coronavirus pandemic -- and officials expect a crowd of 100,000 people or more downtown, with clashes already sparking between protesters and supporters.

Trump is looking to reverse a decline in his political fortunes by returning to the format that has so often energized himself and his base: a raucous, no-holds-barred rally before thousands of ardent supporters. He's pushing forward despite pleas from some health officials. His camp is not guaranteeing mask-wearing and social distancing, and six staffers have tested positive for COVID-19 on site.

Here is everything you need to know about Saturday's rally:

Where is the rally? And what time?

Trump has two events scheduled for his Tulsa visit. First, he will speak outside at 6 p.m. CT for what the White House called a "Great American Comeback Celebration" event, according to the New York Times.

Then, his "Make America Great Again!" rally is scheduled to begin inside downtown Tulsa's BOK Center at 7 p.m. CT. Doors open at 3 p.m. CT.

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Officials expect a crowd of 100,000 people or more in downtown Tulsa for President Trump's rally.

Coronavirus concerns

The rally may be the biggest indoor events in the U.S. since large gatherings were shut down due to COVID-19 concerns.

Dr. Bruce Dart, the Tulsa City-County Health Department's director, said he wished the Trump campaign would move the date back because of a "significant increase in our case trends."

"I'm concerned about our ability to protect anyone who attends a large, indoor event, and I'm also concerned about our ability to ensure the president stays safe as well," he told the Tulsa World.

Trump, however, has dismissed complaints that bringing together throngs for an indoor rally risked spreading the coronavirus as nothing more than politics.

"Big crowds and lines already forming in Tulsa. My campaign hasn't started yet. It starts on Saturday night in Oklahoma!" Trump tweeted Friday.
Oklahoma's Supreme Court on Friday rejected a request to require everyone attending Trump's rally in a 19,000-seat arena to wear a face mask and maintain social distancing inside the arena to guard against the spread of the coronavirus.

Oklahoma has seen a recent spike in coronavirus cases, setting a daily high on Thursday of 450. Health officials on Friday reported 125 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Tulsa County, which is the most of any county in Oklahoma. Statewide, there were 352 new cases and one new coronavirus death reported Friday, raising the state's total number of confirmed cases since the pandemic began to 9,706 and its death toll to 367.

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ABC News Chief Medical Correspondent goes over the new CDC guidelines on mass gatherings, like rallies and protests.

Protesters vs. Trump supporters

Trump's visit has also raised fears of clashes between protesters and Trump supporters.

Already, verbal clashes sparked at times on Friday as hundreds of people converged, and officials expect a crowd of 100,000 people or more in downtown Tulsa Saturday.

Trump on Friday morning tweeted: "Any protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes who are going to Oklahoma please understand, you will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seattle, or Minneapolis. It will be a much different scene!"

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany clarified later that Trump's tweet did not refer to all protesters, rather only to those who are "violent."

The rally was originally scheduled for Friday, but it was moved back a day following an uproar that it otherwise would have happened on Juneteenth, and in a city where a 1921 white-on-Black attack killed as many as 300 people.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who eulogized Floyd, spoke in Tulsa as hundreds gathered to observe Juneteenth. He challenged Trump directly, using the president's own words.

"It's lowlifes that shoot unarmed people, Mr. President," Sharpton said. "You couldn't be talking about us. Because we fought for the country when it wouldn't fight for us."

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U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Lesko appeared on "Good Morning America" Saturday to explain why she's attending President Trump's Tusla rally.

Tulsa's curfew

Tulsa's Republican mayor, G.T. Bynum, rescinded a day-old curfew he had imposed for the area around the BOK Center where some had camped out for days already ahead of the rally. The curfew took effect Thursday night and was supposed to remain until Sunday morning, however Trump tweeted Friday that he had spoken to Bynum and that the mayor told him he would rescind it.

Bynum said he got rid of the curfew at the request of the U.S. Secret Service. In his executive order establishing the curfew, Bynum said he was doing so at the request of law enforcement who had intelligence that "individuals from organized groups who have been involved in destructive and violent behavior in other States are planning to travel to the City of Tulsa for purposes of causing unrest in and around the rally."

The mayor didn't elaborate as to which groups he meant, and police Capt. Richard Meulenberg declined to identify any.

How does this rally benefit Trump?

Republican strategist Alex Conant said the rally gives the president a chance to reset his campaign after a couple of tough months.

"The Tulsa rally is trying to ignite some momentum in a campaign that's been going nowhere," Conant said. "When you look at the polls and then you look at the calendar, you realize he has to do something to try to reframe the election."

The events in Tulsa will go a long way to determining how the campaign plays out in coming months. A success lays the groundwork for Trump to take his show to states that will determine the presidential election. A spike in coronavirus cases coming out of Tulsa would make his reception in those states more contentious. The campaign said it will hand out masks and hand sanitizer, but there is no requirement that participants use them. Participants will also undergo a temperature check.

The president's campaign views his rallies as critical to his success. They elevate the enthusiasm level of his supporters and often lead them to donate, knock on doors and make phone calls on the president's behalf.

Trump has generally held his campaign rallies in swing states or in Democratic-leaning states such as Colorado or New Mexico that he hopes to flip this November. Oklahoma fits none of those categories. The last Democratic candidate to emerge victorious there in a presidential election was Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Trump won the state with more than 65% of the vote in the 2016 election. The Republican stronghold gives Trump more assurance that he'll face little resistance to his efforts from top state officials.

Campaign officials said that Trump would focus on what they call the "great American comeback." White House officials continue to project strong growth numbers for the U.S. economy in the third and fourth quarters. They want to give Americans a reason for optimism. "We are back and we will be booming," press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Friday.

But Conant said he anticipates a lot of the speech will focus on presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

"Right now the election is a referendum on Trump, and he's losing," Conant said. "I think he needs to make a very strong case for why Biden would be a worse president."
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