The Trump campaign ordered the removal of thousands of social distancing labels on seats in the BOK Center ahead of his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, undermining efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus, Billboard Magazine reported Friday.
The sticker labels reading “Do Not Sit Here, Please!” were placed on seats as part of the venue’s new mandatory health safety protocol known as VenueShield — a program developed by doctors, industry experts and infectious disease specialists to contain the spread of the coronavirus, according to the Billboard report.
Doug Thornton, Executive Vice President for ASM Global, which manages the BOK Center, told Billboard that Trump campaign staff asked the arena not to put the labels on the seats.
“They also told us that they didn’t want any signs posted saying we should social distance in the venue,” Thornton told Billboard. “The campaign went through and removed the stickers.”
Video obtained by The Washington Post shows workers at the venue removing the 12,000 social-distancing labels from the seats.
A Facebook post on FOX23 News also appeared to show workers placing the do-not-sit stickers on seats before the rally, though the stickers are nowhere to be seen in photos taken at the event.
Tim Murtaugh, Trump campaign communications director, did not confirm if the Trump campaign had made the directive to remove the labels but said the rally was in “full compliance with local requirements,” citing an email sent to Business Insider by Deputy Press Secretary Ken Farnaso.
“In addition, every rally attendee received a temperature check prior to admission, was given a face mask, and provided ample access to hand sanitizer,” Murtaugh continued.
The 19,000-seat venue hosted Trump’s campaign rally last Saturday in his first in-person event since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The rally came amid a surge in cases in Oklahoma as local medical professionals and health officials — including Bruce Dart, director of Tulsa Health Department — begged Tulsa Mayor GT Bynum to cancel the event.
Thorton told Billboard that staff had double-checked with local officials to get clearance on hosting the rally, despite Oklahoma health protocols did not specifically prevent it from happening. “We would never make a call on an event like this without contacting the local officials, to get their approval,” he said.
“An ASM executive even reached out to the mayor’s office and asked, ‘Are you OK with us going forward with this?'” Thorton continued. “Their response was, ‘Yeah, proceed to the fullest extent that the President has requested.'”
The Trump campaign claimed that about 12,000 people attended the rally, though the Tulsa Fire Department said there were only about 6,200. President Donald Trump went on to inaccurately blame the low rally turnout on the protesters who gathered outside the arena.
Like his rally, Trump also wanted the Republican National Convention — where he is expected to announce his renomination as the GOP presidential candidate — to be held at full capacity in Charlotte, North Carolina.
But North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper refused to host the full-capacity event Trump requested citing coronavirus concerns, and he proposed a smaller, more scaled back event that abides by coronavirus health precautions.
The president reportedly appealed to the North Carolina governor to host the event at full capacity because Trump doesn’t “want to be sitting in a place that’s 50% empty.” Cooper rejected his appeal, to which Trump blasted the governor for continually being in “Shelter-In-Place Mode, and not allowing us to occupy the arena as originally anticipated and promised.”