President Donald Trump is taking his campaign and the coronavirus to the Florida city where in 2012 the shooting of Trayvon Martin made headlines.
Trump’s campaign Friday said the president will appear at 7 p.m. at Orlando Sanford International Airport.
The event will come 10 days after his originally scheduled rally was canceled because he and First Lady Melania Trump received a diagnosis of COVID-19.
The rally will come a little more than three weeks before the Nov. 3 election, with Trump widely viewed as needing to win Florida if he is going to win re-election.
The location is intended to signal Trump’s most controversial supporters in the white supremacy movement as well as the one Hispanic group that Trump is doing well with: Cuban-Americans.
George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old man of mixed race, followed, provoked a physical altercation with and then fatally shot Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old African-American high school student whose father lived in the neighborhood.
Zimmerman was told to stop following Martin when he reported his suspicions to the Sanford Police Department but he was not charged at the time.
Police said there was no evidence to refute Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense, and that Florida’s stand your ground law prohibited them from arresting him.
After national media focused on the incident, Zimmerman was eventually charged and tried, but a jury acquitted him of second-degree murder and manslaughter in July 2013.
Following Martin’s death, rallies, marches and protests were held across the nation.
A petition calling for a full investigation and prosecution of Zimmerman garnered 2.2 million signatures and media coverage surrounding Martin’s death became the first story of 2012 to be featured more than the presidential race, which was underway at the time.
A task force eventually recommended against repealing the stand-your-ground law, saying that Florida residents had a right to defend themselves with deadly force without a duty to retreat if they feel threatened.
In July 2013, a movement opposing the frequent injustice resulting from the death of African Americans began with the use of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media after the acquittal of Zimmerman.
“Trump comes to Sanford today bringing nothing but reckless behavior, divisive rhetoric, and fear mongering,” said Vice President Joe Biden. “But, equally dangerous is what he fails to bring: no plan to get this virus that has taken the lives of over 15,000 Floridians under control, no plan to protect Floridians’ health care amid his attacks against the ACA, and certainly no plan to mitigate the economic impact the pandemic is having on families across Central Florida.”
Trump has been criticized for downplaying the dangers of COVID-19, including taking his mask off after arriving back at the White House to film a campaign ad and working at the Oval Office during the week despite still being infectious.
“Thousands of workers across this state were required by their employers, rightfully so, to show a COVID negative test before they return to work,” said Florida state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith. “Why? Because we don’t want to spread a deadly virus that will get people killed. And Donald Trump won’t show us that he’s COVID negative?”
At least 29 people connected with the White House have been infected, including White Huse staff, journalists, housekeeping staff and debate preparation partners.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people with COVID-19 refrain from being around others for 10 days after symptoms first appear, including 24 hours with no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.
Critics have also rebuked Trump for holding large, sometimes indoor rallies amid the pandemic, including an event in Tulsa in June that local health officials said contributed to a spike in coronavirus cases.
At least nine cases have been linked to a Minnesota rally from mid-September, including two hospitalizations and one in intensive care.
U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, agreed, saying Hispanic support for Trump — particularly among Puerto Ricans — is abysmal, and any claim by the Trump campaign to the contrary is simply untrue.
“They have to be kidding themselves,” said Soto, who is Puerto Rican. “Trump failed our island in ways that have left an indelible scar on the souls of Puerto Ricans. He also opposes statehood, while Biden supports statehood.”
“Every other nation has shown they were able to handle it better than the U.S.,” said Cecelia Gonzalez, a 21-year-old woman whose family moved to Florida from Venezuela. “The U.S. has the best resources for health and economy and we have the highest mortality rate. As an immigrant, I feel devastated.”
She said Trump’s lack of concern for the physical and economic health of the country mirrors his lack of concern for the environment — another important issue for Hispanics, she said.
“I want a sustainable planet where I can breathe and drink the water and go for a walk,” she said. “The way president Trump is handling it, I don’t think I’m going to have a sustainable planet where I can raise my kids.”
Patty Mahany, one of the city’s commissioners who became well known for vocally defending the city’s police chief when it came to the controversial handling of Martin’s case and a 2016 Trump voter, said she planned to vote for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
“It could be absolutely fine, nothing could happen,” Mahany said of the rally’s likely crowd. “Or it could end up a superspreading event.”
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