America braces for a Trump rally like no other - critics fear it will trigger fresh unrest

Later tonight in Tulsa, Oklahoma, tens of thousands of people will congregate in America’s biggest breach of social distancing since the pandemic began.

It is the first Trump rally in post-lockdown America.

Or, more accurately given the infection statistics, the first election rally in mid-pandemic America.

It is certainly drawing curiosity. The White House claims that one million people have applied for tickets.

Already a large crowd has gathered in Tulsa and the National Guard are on the streets to try and keep order.

Nigel Farage has tweeted this morning, suggesting he will be there.

But it’s much more than a health risk.

The rally is being seen by the President’s critics as a provocation. It was originally scheduled for yesterday, a date known in America as “Juneteenth.” That’s the day when many people mark the end of slavery, and remember it’s devastating human toll.

President Trump delayed it by 24 hours. So it will go ahead tonight instead. But that has not removed the sense that he is trying to exploit the current racial and political tensions.

For Tulsa has a special place in 20th century American history - for all the wrong reasons.

In 1921 it was the scene of one of the most shocking acts of racial violence ever to take place in America. A white mob killed hundreds of African-Americans in a paroxysm of violence.

To add to the ominous atmosphere, Trump tweeted out yesterday what appears to have been a direct threat to protesters.

So you can see the problem.

A historically significant date. A location that represents horror for black Americans. A moment of current racial tension. A pandemic. And a threat from the sitting President.

Trump’s critics have launched a new ad ahead of his Tulsa rally.

We have just twenty weeks to go before the presidential election. Donald Trump is restless in the White House, he has been defeated in recent Supreme Court judgments, and ridiculed in a book about to be published by John Bolton, his former national security adviser.

For the President this is also about contrasting this mega-rally with the small, cautious, socially distanced-events organised by his rival Joe Biden.

Trump has told the Wall Street Journal that Tulsa will be “one hell of a night.”

Let’s hope it’s not more than that.

Let’s hope it’s a rally, not a riot.

That it’s about politics, not race.