The Tulsa Fire Department stated that, according to its figures, around 6,200 people attended Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday night. But the campaign is pushing back on that tally, saying that the fire department’s estimate is “way off,” as CNN reports.
The Bank of Oklahoma center where the rally was held can hold just over 19,000 people. As images and video of the event show, the stadium was far from filled as the president spoke to the assembled crowd. At one point, before the program began, an outdoor stage built so that the president could address the overflow crowd at the event was disassembled and the second speech was canceled after it became evident that the attendance was below what was initially expected.
The campaign says that the picture isn’t as extreme as officials in Tulsa claim.
“12,000 people went through the metal detectors so that number is way off,” said Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign’s communication director.
He added that the lower bowl of the venue was mostly filled.
— Stephen Rodrick (@stephenrodrick) June 20, 2020
The Trump campaign had painted a brighter picture of rally attendance early on, saying that over a million people had requested tickets and that an overflow location was being looked at to accommodate all the interest that they were receiving.
But the event itself turned out to be more sparsely attended. The campaign blamed the low attendance on the media for publishing stories about the health risks of attending a large event while the coronavirus continues to spread across the U.S. They also said that protesters prevented attendees from gaining access to the venue.
“President Trump is rallying in Tulsa with thousands of energetic supporters, a stark contrast to the sleepy campaign being run by Joe Biden from his basement in Delaware. Sadly, protestors interfered with supporters, even blocking access to the metal detectors, which prevented people from entering the rally,” said Murtaugh. “Radical protestors, coupled with a relentless onslaught from the media, attempted to frighten off the President’s supporters. We are proud of the thousands who stuck it out.”
As CNN notes, one of the entrances to the venue was closed temporarily in order to clear out protesters that were blocking the entrance, but it was re-opened and people were allowed to enter unimpeded. The other entrances to the venue remained open throughout.
Protesters gathered in the streets of Tulsa before, during, and after the rally, but CNN reports that a safety perimeter was maintained at all times. One CNN reporter said that she didn’t see how protesters would be able to access the metal detectors, which were in the screening area inside the gates.