The president’s Tulsa event attracted just over 6,000 people, which could be a result of teens galvanising to reserve thousands of seats which they then left empty
On Saturday (June 20), Donald Trump was supposed to make a triumphant return to his election campaign trail, with a sold-out rally in Tulsa. Except, it didn’t quite go to plan. Although one million people had reportedly registered for tickets, just over 6,000 turned up, leaving the sad-looking stadium more than half empty.
This pathetic turnout could be down to TikTokers, who galvanised people on the app to sabotage the event. Last week, user Mary Jo Laupp posted a video pointing out the inappropriate timing and setting of the rally – which was originally planned for June 19, AKA Juneteenth, a holiday that commemorates the freeing of US slaves – calling it “a slap in the face to the Black community”. Trump later changed the date of the rally to “honour” the requests of his “African American friends and supporters”.
In her TikTok post, Laupp goes on to explain how Trump opponents could manipulate the Republican Party’s system by reserving seats at the rally for free, leaving them empty when the day of the event rolled around. “Those of us that want to see this 19,000-seat auditorium barely filled, or completely empty,” Laupp said, “go reserve tickets now and leave him standing alone there on the stage.”
Millions of people viewed Laupp’s video, with countless TikTok users going on to create their own posts urging their followers to register for tickets. K-pop fans even joined in calling on their massive followings to help disrupt the event – stans recently utilised their reach to support the Black Lives Matter protests.
The Trump team has denied that teens were behind the rally’s low turnout, with the president’s campaign manager Brad Parscale instead blaming the media and protesters for dissuading families from attending. “Leftists and online trolls doing a victory lap, thinking they somehow impacted rally attendance, don’t know what they’re talking about or how our rallies work,” he said, adding that his team “weeded out.. tens of thousands” of bogus numbers before predicting the amount of attendees.
However, former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt said Trump had been “failed” by his team, writing on Twitter: “My 16-year-old daughter and her friends have hundreds of tickets. You have been rolled by America’s teens.”
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— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 21, 2020
Shout out to Zoomers. Y’all make me so proud. ☺️ https://t.co/jGrp5bSZ9T
New York Times Magazine journalist C.J. Chivers also asserted that Trump had been “fooled”, revealing that two of his children registered for a pair of tickets each. “They registered to spoof POTUS and his campaign,” Chivers said. “One of them is sitting at dinner now, laughing and saying teens around the United States fooled the man.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez praised Gen Z, tweeting: “You just got ROCKED by teens on TikTok who flooded the Trump campaign with fake ticket reservations and tricked you into believing a million people wanted your white supremacist open mic enough to pack an arena during COVID. Shout out to Zoomers. Y’all make me so proud.”
TikTok users have been celebrating their feat, posting videos of themselves celebrating Gen Z’s achievement, as well as photos of the empty stadium, and screenshots of articles and tweets about their campaign.
There’s no way to prove whether the fake bookings caused genuine Trump supporters to lose seats. Many have attributed the low turnout to Trump’s failing campaign, with Bernie Sanders tweeting: “Maybe people are catching on that he is a pathological liar and a fraud.” Others have cited the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as reducing turnout, with mass gatherings still not deemed safe (six campaign staffers later tested positive for COVID-19).
Whether or not TikTok users and K-pop stans were wholly responsible for the low turnout, they certainly inflated the Trump team’s attendee prediction and helped embarrass the president, which was the whole point after all.