Trump blames protesters, media for poor rally turnout
TikTok users and K-pop fans claimed they registered for free tickets as a prank, with no intention of going
TULSAUS President Donald Trump, addressing a less-than-full arena for his first political rally in months, blasted anti-racism protests and defended his handling of the coronavirus on Saturday in a bid to reinvigorate his re-election campaign.
Mr Trump, who revels in large crowds and had predicted that his first rally in months would be epic, blamed the media for discouraging attendees and cited bad behaviour by demonstrators outside, but did not specifically acknowledge that many seats in the 19,000-seat BOK Center arena were empty.
TikTok users and Korean pop music fans are being partly credited for inflating attendance expectations at the rally 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, Mr Trump's campaign manager Brad Parscale said there had been more than one million ticket requests for the event.
But the arena had many empty seats and Mr Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence cancelled 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 Mr Tim Murtaugh in a statement to Reuters.
"But we thank them for their contact information."
"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.
Mr Trump sought to use the event to bring momentum back to his campaign after coming under fire for his responses to the coronavirus and to the death of Mr George Floyd, a black man who died in the custody of Minneapolis police.
Mr Trump had brushed aside criticism for his decision to hold his first rally since March 2 in Tulsa, the site of the country's bloodiest outbreaks of racist violence against black Americans some 100 years ago.
LACK OF EMPATHY
The President, who has encouraged a militaristic response to the nationwide demonstrations while being accused of showing a lack of empathy for the plight of black Americans, used his speech to take aim at some protesters.
"The unhinged left-wing mob is trying to vandalise our history, desecrate our monuments - our beautiful monuments - tear down our statues and punish, cancel and persecute anyone who does not conform to their demands for absolute and total control. We're not conforming," Mr Trump told cheering supporters.
Hours before the rally, Mr Trump's campaign announced six members of its advance team had tested positive for Covid-19. Only a handful of attendees wore masks in the arena.
Mr Trump warned that, unless he was re-elected, all Americans would endure the "chaos you're seeing in our Democratic-run cities."
"When you see those lunatics all over the streets, its damn nice to have arms," he said, vowing to protect the right to bear arms.
"Our people are not nearly as violent, but if they ever were it would be a terrible, terrible day for the other side." - REUTERS