U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday hosted a fraction of the expected supporters. Some of the no-shows may have been teenagers who decided to RSVP with no intention of attending.
Over the past few days, people who oppose Trump organized efforts on social media apps TikTok, Instagram and Twitter to sign up for the rally, sometimes with fake names or burner email accounts. The message spread among teens, especially fans of Korean pop music, who have pivoted their networks to political causes recently. Memes on video-sharing app TikTok showed teenagers dancing in front of screenshots of their Trump rally registrations. Many of the posts were set to the tune of the 1993 song “Macarena,” prompting others to repeat the gesture and causing the meme to go viral.
It’s impossible to know how many of the no-shows at the rally can be attributed to the viral effort. Trump boasted nearly 1 million signups, far beyond the capacity of the Bank of Oklahoma Center, which has 19,000 seats. The president was planning to address overflow crowds at a stage outside the arena, but there was no need. Only a few thousand people showed up — an outcome the campaign attributed to “radical protesters, fueled by a week of apocalyptic media coverage,” according to a tweet by Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager.
Still, online, the opposition declared victory. “My 16 year old daughter and her friends in Park City Utah have hundreds of tickets,” Steve Schmidt, a political strategist who worked for President George W. Bush and Senator John McCain, wrote on Twitter. “You have been rolled by America’s teens.” Other parents’ posts also made similar claims.
Elijah Daniel, a musician under the name Lil Phag, started asking his followers on TikTok days ago to reserve tickets and spread the word. On Saturday he followed up on Twitter, asking how many had done so. Dozens responded saying they’d reserved a few tickets, with joke excuses for why they couldn’t go — from walking their plants to feeding their rocks.
“Seeing how this generation has stood up and become so creative in fighting for what they believe in is awesome to see,” Daniel said in an interview, crediting K-Pop fans for giving him the idea.
The Trump campaign said registering for the rally didn’t mean guaranteed entry for the event, and no one was issued an actual ticket.
“Leftists always fool themselves into thinking they’re being clever,” said Tim Murtaugh, a campaign spokesman. “Registering for a rally only means you’ve RSVPed with a cell phone number. Every rally is general admission and entry is first-come-first served. But we thank them for their contact information.”
It wasn’t just young people. Mary Jo Laupp, who calls herself a TikTok Grandma, said the rally was “a slap in the face to the Black community.” She told followers the campaign was offering two free tickets per cell phone number, and advised people to sign up and then just reply “STOP” to the text messages. Her post was liked 704,500 times and shared 135,000 times.
The Trump campaign relies on data from rally signups to target effective advertisements leading up to election day. On June 14, Parscale tweeted that Tulsa represented the “biggest data haul and rally signup of all time by 10x.”
At least some of that data will likely be ineffective.