Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images; @MaryJoLaupp/TikTok
After low attendance was observed at President Donald Trump's 2020 campaign rally in Tulsa on Saturday, TikTok teens and K-pop stands took a victory lap, claiming that their prank flooding the event with false ticket requests led to the campaign's inflated expectations.
Mary Jo Laupp, the newly-dubbed "TikTok grandma" with volunteer experience on Pete Buttigieg's Democratic nomination campaign, started the trend.
Laupp, who only became a Democrat in 2019 to caucus for Buttigieg and says she's "voted all over the place," will soon begin volunteer work with a grassroots group supporting Joe Biden's 2020 campaign.
Video: What’s going on with TikTok?
Many have praised TikTok teens and K-pop stans for seemingly inflating the Trump campaign's expected attendance for a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma Saturday. But it was a grandmother from Iowa who originated the idea for claiming the event's free tickets as a massive trolling effort.
Ahead of the rally, Trump's 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale said on Twitter that the campaign had received more than one million ticket requests for the free event, which would admit guests on a first-come, first-serve basis.
But the nearly 20,000-person Bank of Oklahoma (BOK) Center was noticeably empty on Saturday, with at least one-third of the venue's seats empty, The New York Times reported. The campaign had constructed a second stage outside of the arena, which Trump and Vice President Mike Pence could have used to directly speak to an overflow of attendees. That idea was dashed when the real number of attendees proved to be much lower than projected.
Mary Jo Laupp, who's been dubbed the "TikTok grandma" and previously volunteered for Pete Buttigieg's presidential campaign, appeared to be one of the first TikTok users to spread the idea. She said she knew the best way to bother Trump would be to have empty seats at his first-rally, which Tulsa's public health head called the "perfect storm of potential over-the-top disease transmission," referencing the possible spread of COVID-19.
Did you know you can make sure there are empty seats at Trump’s rally? ##BLM.
In a June 11 TikTok video, Laupp explained that people could book the free tickets for the rally, originally planned for June 19, with no intention of going, because holding the rally in Tulsa, the site of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, on Juneteenth, was "a slap in the face to the Black community." The campaign later acquiesced to outrage over the Juneteenth rally and postponed it to the following day, Saturday.
"I recommend all of those of us that want to see this 19,000-seat auditorium barely filled or completely empty go reserve tickets now, and leave him standing there alone on the stage," Laupp, 51, said in her original video. Thousands of people on TikTok followed the call, each claiming to have reserved their two free spots at the rally with their cell phone numbers or with Google Voice-created numbers.
TikTok users largely took credit for the underwhelming turnout, claiming they reserved free tickets online in an effort to irk Trump and reduce the crowds following Laupp's video, though the actual effect that the reservations had on real turnout is unclear. Anonymous Trump campaign officials told The New York Times that many of the reservations to the event were trolls, which theoretically would have led to inflated attendance expectations, though the campaign claims they took those into account in their estimates.
Mary Jo Laupp was a lifelong independent voter who voted for Gary Johnson in 2016, until Pete Buttigieg changed her mind.
Courtesy of Mary Jo Laupp
Laupp only registered as a Democrat last year after lifelong independent voter status, during which she "voted all over the place."
"I've never been an official member of a political party," she told Insider. But then, in 2019, she decided to register so that she'd be able to caucus for Buttigieg in Iowa. "That's what pushed me to make that decision," she said. While she has no plans to leave the Democratic party, Laupp did say she has never voted a straight-party ticket, and probably won't in November. In the 2016 election, she said she voted for Gary Johnson.
Since her newly viral moment, Laupp confirmed to Insider that she will be supporting Joe Biden in the 2020 election, and is collaborating with a grassroots organization called Biden's Digital Coalition to support the campaign. (The group is not officially affiliated with Biden's campaign, which has its own digital team.)
While many TikTokers spreading the ticket-claiming prank said they wanted to make the president angry, Laupp said she did this not to harm Trump, but on behalf of her friends in the Black community who dealt with the trauma of the rally being held in Tulsa close to Juneteeth.
"This was always about, for me, the location and the date," she said, adding that Black Wall Street, the site of the 1921 massacre, is close to the BOK Center, where "an entire neighborhood was wiped out because of racism."
When asked for her opinion on Trump, Laupp said, "I think there are times that he says things without thinking carefully first."
"I think he is trying to be president in a way a CEO would run a company," she continued. "America's not a company."
The popularization of the trend has also been largely credited to the K-pop fandom community, which has been a huge source of activism during worldwide racism and police brutality protests sparked by the May 25 killing of George Floyd. Laupp, a musician who has always worked with local high schoolers, has been impressed with the activism of teens, particularly on TikTok during the Black Lives Matter protests.
"It's important for them to see that the older generations are supporting the material because they hear so much about how useless they are, how lazy they are, how entitled they feel. And that's not what I'm seeing out of that [generation] at all," she said.
Read the original article on Insider