Did TikTok users sabotage Trump’s Tulsa rally?

Trump campaign rejects social media users’ claim they inflated attendance expectations for campaign rally.

FILE PHOTO: A supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump shoots a video with his mobile phone from the sparsely filled upper decks of the arena as the president addresses
A Trump supporter in the sparsely filled upper decks of the arena as the president addresses his first re-election campaign rally in several months [Leah Millis/Reuters]

TikTok users and Korean pop music fans have taken partial credit for inflating attendance expectations at a less-than-full arena at US President Donald Trump’s first political rally in months, held in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Social media users on different platforms, including the popular video-sharing app TikTok, claimed in posts and videos on Sunday that they completed the online registration for the event with no intention of going.

Prior to the rally, Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, said there had been more than one million ticket requests for the event.

However, the 19,000-seat BOK Center arena had many empty seats and Trump and Vice President Mike Pence cancelled speeches to an expected “overflow” crowd which did not materialise.

Trump’s campaign advisers had seen the rally as a way to rejuvenate his base and demonstrate support, at a time when a string of opinion polls have suggested he is trailing his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

Oklahoma reported a surge in new coronavirus cases in recent days, and the state’s department of health had warned those planning on attending the event that they faced an increased risk of catching the virus.

The Trump campaign said the entry was “first-come-first-serve” and that no one was issued an actual ticket.

“Leftists always fool themselves into thinking they’re being clever. Registering for a rally only means you’ve RSVPed with a cellphone number,” said Trump’s campaign spokesman, Tim Murtaugh, in a statement to Reuters News Agency. “But we thank them for their contact information.”

US President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Hundreds of supporters lined up early for Donald Trump's first political rally in months,
Trump’s campaign advisers had seen the rally as a way to rejuvenate his base and demonstrate support [Nicholas Kamm/AFP]

Empty seats

The campaign team blamed the disappointing crowd at the rally on protesters creating a hostile atmosphere and blocking supporters from getting into the arena.

Senior Trump campaign aide Mercedes Schlapp told Fox News Sunday attendees were unable to get into the BOK Center.

“There were factors involved, like they were concerned about the protesters who were coming in. There were protesters who blocked the (attendees),” Schlapp said.

“And so we saw that have an impact in terms of people coming to the rally.”

Schlapp went on to say there were families that “didn’t want to bring – couldn’t bring – their children because of concerns of the protesters”.

There were some shouting matches and scuffles outside the event between about 30 Black Lives Matter demonstrators and some Trump supporters waiting to enter.

But reporters on the ground said they saw no problems for people trying to get in.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat, responded to a tweet by Parscale blaming the media for discouraging attendees and cited bad behaviour by demonstrators outside.

“Actually you just got ROCKED by teens on TikTok who flooded the Trump campaign w/ fake ticket reservations & tricked you into believing a million people wanted your white supremacist open mic enough to pack an arena during COVID,” she tweeted on Saturday. “KPop allies, we see and appreciate your contributions in the fight for justice too.”

“When your whole family registers for 10 free tickes to Trump’s rally in Tulsa knowing full well those seats will be empty because we live in Georgia & also aren’t racist,” a TikTok user posted on her profile while lip-synching to a voice saying: “That is epic.”

TikTok user Mary Jo Laupp, who uses the hashtag #TikTokGrandma, reportedly led the charge when she posted a video last week urging people to reserve tickets without attending. The video has more than 700,000 likes. 

Trump had brushed aside criticism for his decision to hold the rally in Tulsa, the site of the country’s bloodiest outbreaks of racist violence against Black Americans some 100 years ago.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies