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Trump realised too late that a million K-pop fans weren’t coming to his Tulsa rally

By | Published on Monday 22 June 2020

Donald Trump

Of all the many unexpected things that have happened in 2020, I think K-pop fans forming a major movement of political activism is one of the more enjoyable.

Having banded together for various online actions in support of Black Lives Matter in recent weeks – including drowning out racist hashtags with videos of their favourite K-pop stars – this weekend they left Donald Trump embarrassed. It turned out that the hundreds of thousands of people he was expecting at his campaign rally in Tulsa on Saturday were largely K-pop fans who had reserved seats with no intention of attending.

The rally was held at the 19,000 seat BOK Centre in Tulsa, Oklahoma. On the day of the event, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale was excitedly telling the world that, due to overwhelming demand for tickets, a stage had also been built outside the venue. With hundreds of thousands of people – up to a million, it was bragged – expected to be left standing in the car park, Trump would address them in person, as well as taking to the stage inside the arena.

However, when stage time came, video footage showed a half empty venue and no clamouring supporters crushing to get through the door. It turned out that the overwhelming demand had been created by K-pop fans and other TikTok users registering for tickets in their thousands, with no intention of joining the US president inside or outside the venue.

Parscale initially claimed that “radical protesters” had “blocked access to the metal detectors, preventing people from entering the venue”, hence all the empty seats.

But, having noted the lack of a crowd unable to enter as a result of any on-the-ground protestors, political journalists began reporting online chatter about an online pre-event protest organised by K-pop fans, which simply made the event look like it was going to be far, far more popular than it actually was. Seemingly this flood of ticket requests from K-pop followers and TikTokers was not something Parscale or his team questioned until it was too late.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez then tweeted in response to Parscale’s defence of the poor turnout: “Actually you just got ROCKED by teens on TikTok who flooded the Trump campaign with fake ticket reservations and tricked you into believing a million people wanted your white supremacist open mic enough to pack an arena during COVID. Shout out to Zoomers. Y’all make me so proud”.

This is just the latest act of online political activism by K-pop fans in recent weeks, which has seen them match a $1 million Black Lives Matter donation made by BTS, flood racist hashtags on social media with K-pop photos and videos, and do the same to various police apps meant for submitting images of protesters.