President-elect Donald Trump said Tuesday that “record crowds [are] coming” to attend his upcoming inauguration, claiming to have seen recent aerial photos showing thousands of “Bikers for Trump” supporters on their way.
“Now I think they’ve announced we’re going to have record crowds coming,” Trump said at the Chairman’s Global Dinner in Washington, D.C. He did not explain where he got his information on the size of the expected crowd.
“I saw the Bikers for Trump — boy they had a scene today,” Trump said. “And they had a scene today where they had helicopters flying over a highway some place in this country. And they had thousands of those guys coming into town.”
“People are pouring into Washington in record numbers,” Trump also said in a tweet. “Bikers for Trump are on their way. It will be a great Thursday, Friday, and Saturday!”
President-elect Trump, speaking tonight, says someone has announced "record crowds" coming to his inauguration (no one has announced this) pic.twitter.com/cgf7uk9TdO
— Mark Berman (@markberman) January 18, 2017
There is no evidence that record numbers of Trump supporters will turn out for the inauguration. D.C.’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is expecting anywhere between 800,000 to 900,000 people to attend the swearing-in ceremony and the parade. In comparison, an estimated 1.8 million people attended President Barack Obama’s first inauguration. And ticket scalpers are reportedly having a difficult time selling tickets to Trump’s ceremony.
Many Trump supporters will show up, but it probably will not be on the scale that Trump purports. “Bikers for Trump” founder Chris Cox requested a permit for 5,000 bikers to help form a “wall of meat” against Trump protesters. According to Buzzfeed News, the permit was “still being processed and had not yet been issued.” The publication pointed out that only one other pro-Trump biker group has thus far received a permit for 20 people. The Travis Thompson Biker, another pro-Trump group, has requested a permit for 5,000 people, which is still being processed.
Yet Trump supporters have been tweeting out photos and videos apparently showing large groups of bikers on their way to the inauguration. The following aerial photos — which have received numerous retweets — are fake:
— Democrats for Trump (@YoungDems4Trump) January 18, 2017
The photo from the Twitter handle @YoungDems4Trump showing sleeveless men in the foreground dates from a 2005 Rolling Thunder event at the Pentagon, which pays tribute to those killed in the Vietnam War and “remembers those missing from all conflicts” according to the U.S. Department of Defense website. The photo was also made into a meme labeled “100,00 bikers at Trump Rally. Not one arrest” in May 2016.
— 🌹Νια (@nia4_trump) January 18, 2017
The video from Twitter handle @nia4_trump similarly has uses undated and unverified footage showing green grass in the background. As it’s winter, it’s difficult to pinpoint where this footage was taken in terms of location and date. A reader has since noted that the footage comes from a Youtube video uploaded in April 2016 from a parade of motorcycles in Tehran, Iran. The video was also uploaded by a group called “Bikers 4 Liberty,” which Cox calls a “scam group.”
— WIKIFLEEK (@WikiFleekMemes) January 18, 2017
The photo from Twitter handle @WikiFleekMemes claiming that 200,000 bikers were on their way to D.C. is also fake. The origin of the photo comes from a 2013 blog post on bikers on the Spanish website Hoy.
As of this week, there are still three times more bus permits issued for the protests on Saturday — namely for the Women’s March on Washington — than for Trump’s inauguration. Thus far, the District Department of Transportation has filed 393 bus permits for Trump’s inauguration. Events DC, which is in charge of the Women’s March, received 1,200 bus permit requests.
Trump has a history of boasting about the size of the expected crowd at his events. Most recently, he said, “all the dress shops are sold out” of inauguration gowns. A Washington Post investigation the day after he broadcast his tweet found ball gowns in stock at high-end stores in D.C. On Tuesday night, a ThinkProgress reporter still found many choices for off-the-rack dresses at downtown D.C.’s ritzy CityCenter, which houses stores like Dior and Louis Vuitton.
Update: Thanks to savvy readers, the piece has been updated to reflect that the origin of the photo with bikers in a parking lot comes from a 2005 Rolling Thunder event at the Pentagon. The piece was also updated after another reader found the same video of bikers riding down a highway from footage off an April 2016 YouTube video of a motorcyclist parade in Tehran, Iran.