US President Donald Trump has announced he will no longer hold his much-hyped comeback rally on Juneteenth “out of respect” for the holiday.
Mr Trump had planned to hit the campaign trail in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 19th – the day African Americans celebrate the end of slavery in America.
But he backflipped on Friday, following criticism from African American leaders and amid nationwide Black Lives Matter protests.
“We had previously scheduled our #MAGA Rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for June 19th – a big deal. Unfortunately, however, this would fall on the Juneteenth holiday,” he said on Twitter.
“Many of my African-American friends and supporters have reached out to suggest that we consider changing the date out of respect for this holiday, and in observance of this important occasion and all that it represents.
“I have therefore decided to move our rally to Saturday, June 20th, in order to honour their requests.”
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany had previously defended the date, saying it was “meaningful” to the president because he was “working on rectifying injustices”.
“The African American community is very near and dear to his heart. At these rallies he often shares the great work he has done for minority communities,” she said.
“It’s a day where wants to share some of the progress that’s been made as we look forward and more that needs to be done.”
In an interview with Fox News, Mr Trump had also urged people to consider the rally a “celebration”.
“Think about it as a celebration. My rally is a celebration,” he told host Harris Faulkner.
But critics said it was offensive not only to hold the rally on Juneteenth, but also in Tulsa, the site of a devastating race massacre in 1921.
US representative Al Green said it was a “slap in the face to African Americans”, while Democratic senator Kamala Harris said it was “a wink to white supremacists”.
“He’s throwing them a welcome home party,” she tweeted on Thursday.
More than 200,000 people have already requested tickets to the rally, according to Mr Trump.
But with the coronavirus pandemic far from over, attendees have been told they must “voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19” and agree to not hold Mr Trump, the venue or any affiliates liable for any illness or injury.
“By clicking register below, you are acknowledging that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present,” a notice on the sign-up page states.
“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 Centre; ASM Global; or any of their affiliates, directors, officers, employees, agents, contractors, or volunteers liable for any illness or injury.”