Trump postpones rally scheduled for 'Juneteenth' holiday

The pandemic forced US President Donald Trump to shelve his rally schedule, putting a serious dent in his reelection strategy (AFP Photo/SAUL LOEB)

Washington (AFP) - President Donald Trump has postponed by one day a controversial rally scheduled on a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the US, following fierce criticism.

The "Make America Great Again" re-election campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma had been due to mark Trump's return to the campaign trail after a months-long absence imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

But he said overnight Friday on Twitter the event had been postponed "out of respect" for the June 19 "Juneteenth" holiday.

In a later tweet Trump said the rally would be held the very next day.

Critics had slammed Trump's choice of Tulsa -- the site of one of the deadliest race riots in US history -- as anti-racism protests sweep the country following the death of George Floyd in police custody.

"This isn't just a wink to white supremacists — he's throwing them a welcome home party," Senator Kamala Harris, who is black, tweeted after Trump first announced the rally.

The Republican billionaire announced on Wednesday that he would resume his campaign rallies in four states -- Oklahoma, Florida, Arizona and North Carolina -- even as the pandemic continues to rage in the US.

Raucous rallies have been a hallmark of Trump's presidency and a key to energizing his base, which he hopes will turn out in big numbers on November 3. He is currently lagging in the polls against Democrat Joe Biden.

Job approval for the president is also down after his widely criticized response to the pandemic and the recent turmoil over police brutality, sparked by Floyd's death during his arrest in Minneapolis.

Although the coronavirus remains a threat, his campaign now feels that the crowds at daily street protests have lifted the political pressure on Trump to avoid large gatherings of his own.

Trump supporters must, however, sign a waiver promising not to sue if they catch COVID-19 at the event, according to his campaign website.