TikTok users and Korean pop music fans are being partly credited for inflating attendance expectations at a less-than-full arena at President Donald Trump’s first political rally in months, held in Tulsa on Saturday.
Social media users on different platforms, including the popular video-sharing app TikTok, have claimed in posts and videos that they registered for free tickets to the rally as a prank, with no intention of going.
Prior to the event, 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 canceled speeches to an expected “overflow” crowd.
The Trump campaign said that the entry was ‘first-come-first-served’ 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 cell phone number,” said Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh in a statement to Reuters. “But we thank them for their contact information.”
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat, responded to a tweet by Parscale blaming the media for discouraging attendees and cited bad behavior 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,” she added.
“My 16 year old daughter and her friends in Park City Utah have hundreds of tickets. You have been rolled by America’s teens,” tweeted former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt.
CNN reported on Tuesday that a TikTok video posted by Mary Jo Laupp, a user who uses the hashtag #TikTokGrandma, was helping lead the charge. The video now has more than 700,000 likes.
There were some shouting matches and scuffles outside the event between around 30 Black Lives Matter demonstrators and some Trump supporters waiting to enter. A Reuters reporter saw no sign any Trump supporters were prevented from entering the arena or overflow area.
Trump had brushed aside criticism for his decision to hold the in Tulsa, the site of the country’s bloodiest outbreaks of racist violence against Black Americans some 100 years ago.
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