TikTok users, K-pop fans say they helped sabotage Trump rally with false registrations

TikTok users and fans of Korean pop music took partial credit for inflating attendance expectations at a less-than-full arena at President Donald Trump’s first political rally in months, held in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday.
Social media users on platforms including the popular video-sharing app have said they completed the free online registration for the rally with no intention of going.
Prior to the event, 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 Trump and Vice President Mike Pence canceled speeches to an expected “overflow” area outside.
The Tulsa Fire Department tallied the crowd at about 6,200 people.
Trump’s campaign advisers had seen the rally as a way to rejuvenate his base and demonstrate support when opinion polls have shown him trailing his Democratic rival, former vice president Joe Biden.
Oklahoma has reported a surge in new coronavirus cases, 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 entry was on a ‘first-come-first-served’ basis and 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,” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said in a statement. “But we thank them for their contact information.”
Parscale said in a statement the campaign weeds out bogus phone numbers and 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 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.
CNN had reported 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 who spoke to Reuters in Skype and phone interviews on Sunday said 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 rallied 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.
On Saturday, there were some shouting matches and scuffles outside the event between around 30 Black Lives Matter demonstrators and some Trump supporters waiting to enter.


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 his first re-election campaign rally in several months in the midst of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S., June 20, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo
A Reuters reporter said police did temporarily close the access gates after protesters arrived at the rally perimeter, but state troopers helped clear the area and the gates were reopened some three hours before the rally began.
The Biden campaign denied having any role in the social media registration effort.
“Donald Trump has abdicated leadership and it is no surprise that his supporters have responded by abandoning him,” said a campaign spokesman, Andrew Bates.
President Donald Trump said on Saturday he would announce new restrictions on visas within a couple of days to block the entry of certain foreign workers and protect Americans struggling with a job market devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.


U.S. President Donald Trump stands at the podium listening to his supporters cheer as he addresses his first re-election campaign rally in several months in the midst of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S., June 20, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis
“We’re going to be announcing something tomorrow or the next day on the visas,” he told Fox News Channel.
Asked if there would be exclusions from the new restrictions, Trump said very few.
“You need them for big businesses where they have certain people that have been coming in for a long time, but very little exclusion and they’re pretty tight,” he said. “And we may even go very tight for a period of time.”
Trump, who has been expected to announce new restrictions, declined to provide further details.
Critics have said Trump looked set to use the pandemic to achieve his long-standing goal of limiting immigration into the United States. His tough stance on immigration is central to his pitch to voters as he runs for re-election.
Major American companies, particularly in the tech sector, have urged Trump to refrain from blocking the flow of foreign workers into the United States, saying it would hurt the economy.
The new action would be Trump’s latest step to restrict immigration in response to the pandemic and economic fallout.
In April, he ordered a temporary block on some foreigners from permanent residence in the United States.
He also announced new health-focused rules in March that allow for the rapid deportation of immigrants caught at the border and virtually cut off access to the U.S. asylum system.
At the same time, he announced the land borders with Canada and Mexico would be closed to non-essential crossings, a measure that has been extended several times.