Thousands disregard Covid-19 warnings at Trump indoor rally

Most were without masks as they cheered on Trump who made false claims about his rival

President Donald Trump held a Nevada campaign rally at an indoor venue on Sunday, despite public health professionals' warnings against large indoor gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic.
US President Donald Trump unloaded his regular, inaccurate onslaught against former vice-president Joe Biden at the Nevada rally on Sunday, falsely accusing him of waging a "dangerous war on the police".
US President Donald Trump unloaded his regular, inaccurate onslaught against former vice-president Joe Biden at the Nevada rally on Sunday, falsely accusing him of waging a "dangerous war on the police".PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

HENDERSON (Nevada) • Thousands of Trump supporters, the vast majority of them forgoing face masks, packed into a manufacturing plant on Sunday night in a Las Vegas suburb, where President Donald Trump brashly ignored a state directive limiting indoor gatherings to fewer than 50 people.

There were no signs of any attempts at social distancing inside the venue.

Attendees wearing red Maga (Make America great again) caps sat in white folding chairs crammed together on the floor of the Xtreme Manufacturing plant, which said on its website that it had "restricted meetings and gatherings to no more than 10 people in large areas".

In his remarks, Mr Trump unloaded his regular, inaccurate onslaught against former vice-president Joe Biden, falsely accusing him of waging a "dangerous war on the police" and claiming that "he's shot and everybody knows it".

The raucous crowd appeared to relish the performance, at one point chanting "all lives matter!" when a protester tried to disrupt the President's remarks.

Hoping to capitalise on Mr Biden's vulnerability with Latino voters in the state - he won just 17 per cent of the Latino vote in the Nevada caucuses, compared with 50 per cent for Senator Bernie Sanders - Mr Trump claimed that his Democratic rival would be a "disaster for Hispanic Americans".

Earlier in the day, Mr Trump, who entered the political arena by calling Mexicans "rapists" who were bringing drugs and crime into the country, held a round-table session with Latino small-business owners.

At the rally, he claimed: "Some say, 'Call us Latino.' Others say, 'Call us Hispanic.' Others say, 'Call us whatever the hell you want, we love you'."

The campaign's decision to hold Sunday's rally indoors came after two outdoor rallies in the state were scuttled, one because the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority informed the tenants who lease the hangar there that the event was in violation of the state directive limiting gatherings to fewer than 50 people.

The campaign then vetted five different outdoor venues, all of which were blocked by the governor, according to an administration official familiar with the planning.

It settled on the indoor manufacturing plant as a last resort, adding extra ventilation and keeping the doors open.

 
 
 

Defending the decision to gather supporters inside in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak, Mr Tim Murtaugh, a Trump campaign spokesman, said in a statement: "If you can join tens of thousands of people protesting in the streets, gamble in a casino, or burn down small businesses in riots, you can gather peacefully under the First Amendment to hear from the president of the United States."

On Sunday night, Mr Trump pitched his event as a form of entertainment while barely acknowledging that he was headlining a campaign rally indoors for the first time since June 20, when he was greeted in Tulsa, Oklahoma, by an arena that was more than half empty.

He also made no mention of the pandemic's death toll, even as it continues to kill hundreds of Americans a day.

NYTIMES

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2020, with the headline 'Thousands disregard Covid-19 warnings at Trump indoor rally'. Print Edition | Subscribe