In Tulsa, fears Trump rally may worsen crises

Supporters of President Donald Trump were camped outside the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Wednesday, ahead of the president's campaign rally scheduled for Saturday.

The 19,200-seat arena is set to be the venue of Trump's first rally in three months - a period of time during which the coronavirus, the economic fallout from it, and a wave of protests over police brutality and racial injustice has further divided the country.

And officials in Tulsa said they were worried the rally could not only worsen racial unrest, but also potentially spread the coronavirus at the indoor event at a time when Oklahoma, along with other states, has reported a new spike in COVID-19 cases.

"Where are you going to be Saturday?"

"I'm going to be out with our police officers who've been working their tails off for the last three months to keep this city safe. Not going to the rally."

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, a Republican, said at a press briefing on Wednesday that he does plan to greet the president at the airport on Saturday, but will be assisting law enforcement during the rally.

"I cannot imagine what our police officers have gone through on the frontlines of this pandemic... The protests that have been held over the last several weeks and now doing round the clock preparation for this event. So I want to be out with them. And that's where I'll be on Saturday."

Trump's campaign advisers believe the rally is a way to rejuvenate his base, at a time when a string of national opinion polls have shown Trump falling behind his Democratic rival, Joe Biden.

"He's so eager to get back to his campaign rallies that he'll put people at risk as everyone has pointed out, in violation of the CDC guidelines."

But even some of Trump's fellow Republicans are questioning his decision to hold a rally in the midst of a pandemic.

"I think any rational person looking at any large grouping of people, which is what we've been telling Tulsans for the last several months, that you need to be concerned about, would have concerns about this weekend."

At the White House on Wednesday, Trump's press secretary said on Wednesday that masks will be handed out at the event in Tulsa, but it's up to attendees whether they wear them.

"They will be given a mask. It's up to them whether to make that decision. CDC guidelines are recommended but not required."

Bynum encouraged the residents of his city to wear masks.

"I wear a mask everywhere I go in public, and I'm usually one of the few people in those public spaces that has one on that. Say, if for some reason wearing a mask has become this politically divisive issue when it shouldn't be, it's a public health issue. And so that I think that the ease in vigilance that's occurred around individual responsibility to keep one another safe. And this is what accounts for a lot of the increases that we've seen."

The Trump campaign said that more than 1 million people had signed up for tickets for the rally in Tulsa - the first event the arena will have held in months.

Attendees must sign a waiver before entering the rally, promising that they won't sue Trump or the campaign if they contract the coronavirus.