President Donald Trump visited Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday night for a highly controversial June 20 rally. The rally was originally scheduled for June 19, but it was rescheduled to avoid the observance of Juneteenth. The rally had a much smaller turnout than expected, although thousands still attended.
Here’s what you need to know:
The Fire Department Said the Crowd Was About 6,200; Trump’s Campaign Said It Was 12,000
The BOK Center (Bank of Oklahoma Center) has a seating capacity of about 19,199 for a central stage setup. For a basketball setup, it’s 17,839, and 17,096 for a hockey setup. In 2018, BOK Center was ranked the No. 7 arena in the United States and one of the busiest concert destinations by Pollstar.
But Trump’s rally on Saturday night didn’t even fill half of the venue’s capacity, according to the fire department. The Tulsa Fire Department estimated the crowd size as being about 6,200 as of 7:30 p.m., The Hill reported. Andrew Little, the public information officer for the Tulsa Fire Department, said the number accounted for scanned tickets and didn’t include media, campaign staff or people in box seats.
Trump’s campaign told The Hill that about 12,000 walked through metal detectors, leaving a discrepancy of nearly 6,000 between the fire department’s tally and Trump’s campaign’s tally.
Photos Show Plenty of Open Space In the Arena
More than two hours from the rally’s start time, the lower part of the venue was already filling up, shared Keaton Ross of Report4America.
We’re now two and a half hours away from Trump’s scheduled arrival, and the lower bowl is starting to fill up. I’d say 5-10% of the crowd is wearing a mask. #TulsaTrumpRally pic.twitter.com/1sRUteSl7s
— Keaton Ross (@keaton__ross) June 20, 2020
However, as the rally drew closer to starting, it looked like the venue might not be as packed as people thought. The photo below was taken by Astead Herndon of the New York Times about 90 minutes or so before the rally was scheduled to begin.
As others are reporting, looks like attendance here in Tulsa is well below campaign's expectations. Here's the main floor at the arena currently pic.twitter.com/EASfSHL5nN
— Steadman™ (@AsteadWesley) June 20, 2020
An hour before the rally was scheduled to begin, the upper bowl was still mostly empty, Ross reported.
Just over an hour to go until Trump is scheduled to speak, and the upper bowl is mostly empty. Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado, former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon have addressed the crowd in the past 30 minutes. #TrumpTulsaRally pic.twitter.com/JO7hC2hFMQ
— Keaton Ross (@keaton__ross) June 20, 2020
Outside Speeches Were Canceled When Not Enough People Showed Up for the Overflow Space
Overflow space was set up outside for people who couldn’t attend inside, but not enough people showed up to use that space.
Courtney Subramanian of USA Today tweeted that the campaign announced outdoor speeches were canceled.
— Courtney Subramanian (@cmsub) June 20, 2020
The overflow area was mostly empty. Vice President Mike Pence was supposed to speak, but that speech was canceled.
This is what overflow looks like at the Trump rally in Tulsa right now. Pence is scheduled to speak out here in about 10 minutes. People still streaming in but not nearly the number the campaign said they were expecting. pic.twitter.com/hbypfviOxv
— Abby D. Phillip (@abbydphillip) June 20, 2020
Here’s another view of the outdoor overflow area before it emptied out.
We’re told that Trump will not speak to the overflow crowd, as was originally expected. There is a full set-up there for him, complete with lectern and protective glass. pic.twitter.com/s8H15F0Mlv
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) June 20, 2020
Crowds Were Lined up the Day Before the Rally
People began lining up early to make sure they could get a seat once the doors opened. The line to get into the rally was long on Friday, the day before the event.
Longest line I’ve ever seen a day ahead of a Trump rally, several blocks downtown are filled with Trump supporters waiting in line for the President’s speech tomorrow #Tulsa #Trump #TulsaRally #TulsaTrumpRally #TrumpRallyTulsa pic.twitter.com/qtKmkdKhvK
— Brendan Gutenschwager (@bgutenschwager) June 19, 2020
Here’s another view of the crowd lined up for two blocks on Friday:
One block of Trump supporters lined up in front of the BOK Center in Tulsa.
The line stretched around 2 blocks with some supporters waiting since last Friday. pic.twitter.com/BCLBUoR3Mn
— Savanah Hernandez (@sav_says_) June 20, 2020
But the crowds lining up still left a lot of empty seats in the rally.
Campaign organizers blamed the media, the New York Times reported. “The fact is that a week’s worth of the fake news media warning people away from the rally because of Covid and protesters, coupled with recent images of American cities on fire, had a real impact on people bringing their families and children to the rally,” said campaign manager Brad Parscale, who organized the Tulsa event, according to the Times.
Others say the low turnout was due in part to TikTok users signing up for tickets without planning to attend. Mary Jo Laupp, a 51-year-old grandmother from Fort Dodge, Iowa, had launched a campaign to overinflate the campaign’s ticket request numbers, though Parscale denied that had an impact.
READ NEXT: Daily COVID-19 Updates