Donald Trump’s campaign removed thousands of stickers on arena seats encouraging social distancing before the president’s rally last week in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Billboard and The Washington Post reported.
The “Do Not Sit Here Please!” stickers were intended to help stem the spread of COVID-19 cases, which were spiking in the city at the time of the June 20 event — and continue to climb in Tulsa and throughout Oklahoma.
Campaign officials informed an executive of venue manager ASM Global to stop labeling the seats hours before the rally, ASM Executive Vice President Doug Thornton told Billboard.
By the time the Trump campaign interfered, arena workers had already affixed some 12,000 stickers on nearly every other seat, a person familiar with the event told the Post.
Both Billboard and the Post also viewed video showing Trump campaign staffers peeling off stickers from the seats.
There was plenty of room for social distancing at the BOK Center, where only 6,200 rally tickets were scanned for a space that can hold 19,000 people. Instead, vast swaths of seats were left empty as people jammed together in seats closest to the podium.
The stickers were part of ASM Global’s new mandatory “VenueShield” protocol aimed at helping protect people from COVID-19 at the 325 sites it manages. But Thornton told Billboard that ASM had no legal authority to stop the event, which was approved by Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) and Tulsa’s Republican mayor, G.T. Bynum.
The Trump campaign ignored ASM’s request to file a COVID-19 safety plan for the rally, Billboard reported — even though Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, had reportedly warned the White House that the rally would be dangerous. Hundreds of campaign staffers only haphazardly wore masks and maintained social distancing, according to Billboard. Tulsa is overhauling event protocols at the center in the wake of the Trump rally.
As many as eight Trump campaign staff members preparing for the rally tested positive for the coronavirus. A reporter who covered rally has also tested positive.
“We know that two of them were intermingling with the people in the arena,” Tulsa Police Department Cpl. David Crow said at a meeting Tuesday of the Tulsa Public Facilities Authority. “Obviously, we know that that event probably triggered some type of broader infection.”
Campaign manager Brad Parscale, campaign staffers and dozens of Secret Service officers are reportedly now in quarantine because of suspected COVID-19 risks at the Tulsa rally.
Anyone applying for tickets to the rally on the Trump campaign website had to agree not to sue the president or the campaign if the participant contracted COVID-19 at the event.
The Trump campaign did not immediately return a request from HuffPost to comment.