US President Donald Trump’s first campaign rally since the COVID-19 pandemic began received more than one million ticket requests – but only 6,000 people showed up.
It is believed that a viral TikTok movement – which saw an unknown number of users reserve tickets for the 20 June event with no intention of turning up – played a part in the reduced turnout for the Tulsa, Oklahoma rally on Saturday.
According to multiple reports, the movement appears to stem from Iowa woman Mary Jo Laupp, who posted a TikTok video on 12 June pointing out the cultural insensitivity of the original date for the rally, which would have been held on ‘Juneteenth’, a holiday that marks the end of slavery in the US.
We had previously scheduled our #MAGA Rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for June 19th – a big deal. Unfortunately, however, this would fall on the Juneteenth Holiday. Many of my African American friends and supporters have reached out to suggest that we consider changing the date out…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2020
In her TikTok post, which has been viewed at least 2.1 million times – not counting the number of shares across other social media platforms – Laupp encouraged Americans to register for the rally and “make sure there are empty seats”.
It is unclear of the extent to which TikTok users mobilised to reserve tickets for the event, with a stunted turnout to the rally also perhaps due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Regardless of the source, fewer than 6,200 people were in attendance at the rally – city officials expected a crowd of 100,000 people or more in downtown Tulsa, according to the ABC News, while the venue itself – the BOK Center – had a 19,000-seat capacity.
And to add insult to injury, TikTok users shared a screenshot of their unused tickets while dancing to the Macarena.
The plan to derail the rally also draw plenty of praise across social media.
i have three teenagers. two of them have a pair of tix each to @realDonaldTrump’s rally in tulsa; they registered to spoof POTUS & his campaign. one of them is sitting at dinner now, laughing and saying teens around the united states fooled the man. https://t.co/akLU9o8u3f
— C.J. Chivers (@cjchivers) June 21, 2020
My 14 year old signed up under the name Bend Over. Then takes all of the surveys and we laugh so hard!! But I did make him unsubscribe because of the name he used although it was funny!!
— Rosanne ??? (@RosanneR429) June 21, 2020
Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said the “fake news media” was to blame for “warning people away from the rally” over COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter protests.
“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, as reported by ABC News.
“Registering for a rally means you’ve RSVPed with a cell phone number and we constantly weed out bogus numbers, as we did with tens of thousands at the Tulsa rally, in calculating our possible attendee pool.
“These phony ticket requests never factor into our thinking.”
A spokesperson for Trump’s Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, said the turnout was a sign of weakening voter support.
“Donald Trump has abdicated leadership and it is no surprise that his supporters have responded by abandoning him,” the spokesperson said.