North America

TikTok users and K-Pop fans say they helped sabotage Donald Trump's Tulsa rally

Supporters wait for the start of a campaign rally for U President Donald Trump at the BOK Center, 20 June, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma Source: Getty

Social media users say they completed a free online registration for US President Donald Trump's rally in Tulsa with no intention of going.

TikTok users and fans of K-Pop music 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.

Social media users on platforms including the popular video-sharing app say they completed the free online registration for the Tulsa, Oklahoma rally with no intention of going.

The New York Times reported that fans of Korean pop music were encouraging people to do the same.

Prior to the event, Mr Trump's campaign manager Brad Parscale said there had been more than one million requests to attend.

However, the 19,000-seat BOK Center arena had many empty seats on Saturday evening and Mr Trump and Vice President Mike Pence cancelled speeches to an expected "overflow" area outside.

A Tulsa Fire Department spokesman said the crowd was tallied at about 6200 people.

Oklahoma has reported a surge in new coronavirus cases in recent days, and the state's department of health had warned those planning to attend they faced an increased risk.

The Trump campaign said entry was on a "first-come-first-served" basis and no one was issued an actual ticket.

The 19,000-seat BOK Center arena had many empty seats.
The 19,000-seat BOK Center arena had many empty seats.

"Leftists always fool themselves into thinking they're being clever. Registering for a rally only means you've RSVPed with a cellphone number," Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said in a statement.

"But we thank them for their contact information."

Mr Parscale said in a statement the campaign weeds out bogus phone numbers and that they did this with "tens of thousands" at the Tulsa event in calculating possible attendance.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat, responded with derision to a Twitter post by Parscale that blamed 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," she added.

CNN reported on Tuesday that a TikTok video posted by Mary Jo Laupp, who uses the hashtag TikTokGrandma, was helping lead the charge.

The video now has more than 700,000 likes.

Two K-pop fans told Reuters they had each registered for two spots, not using their real names and numbers.

Raq, a 22-year-old student and Democratic voter in Minnesota who only wanted to be identified by her nickname, said a key reason she took part was that the rally was in Tulsa, the site of the country’s bloodiest outbreaks of racist violence against Black Americans some 100 years ago.

"I heard it first from just BTS fans and then once I saw that it got to TikTok, I was like, oh yeah, this is going to blow up," she said, referring to a popular South Korean boy-band.

Em, a 17-year-old student in Kansas who only wanted to be identified by her username, said she had first heard about the effort on TikTok. She said many of the original tweets sharing information about the rally had been deleted.

"I think it was partially the TikTokers and the K-pop fans but also people are not as interested in Trump as he thinks they are," she said.

Fans of K-pop have been actively rallying around the Black Lives Matter movement on social media in recent weeks, taking over hashtags that opposed the movement and spamming a Dallas police department app that asked for evidence of illegal activity during the protests.

Additional Reporting: Reuters

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch