Russian groups organized pro-Trump rallies on Facebook: report
Russia-linked groups attempted to organize over a dozen pro-Trump rallies around Florida during the 2016 elections, The Daily Beast reported on Wednesday.
The rallies, which dozens attended, are the first known instance of Russian actors successfully organizing Americans to show up in person at events supporting President Trump.
On Aug. 20, 2016, as a part of an event called “Florida Goes Trump!,” a “patriotic state-wide flash mob” happened simultaneously in 17 cities across the swing state. It’s unclear if the events happened in all of the 17 cities — Facebook has deleted the account, Being Patriotic, which organized the events.
Photos and videos The Daily Beast found on social media from Ft. Lauderdale and Coral Gables show that these events were attended.
The Trump campaign’s chairwoman for Broward County tweeted about one of the rallies:
Huge, enthusiastic crowd greeted the Trump RV at Wings Plus in Coral Springs Fl pic.twitter.com/UaGAFS0XU1
— Dolly Trevino Rump (@dollytrump) September 1, 2016
“Florida Goes Trump!” was one of several events organized by Being Patriotic, which reportedly had upwards of 200,000 followers.
Others include a “Down With Hillary!” protest in July 2016 outside Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s New York campaign headquarters, a September pro-Trump demonstration in Manhattan, simultaneous “Miners for Trump” demonstrations in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in October and a pro-Trump rally outside Trump Tower last November.
The account was taken down in August 2017, when Facebook deleted hundreds of accounts associated with the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency. The group’s associated Twitter account, @March_With_Trump, is also no longer accessible.
Twitter has not publicly released information of potential Russian attempts to influence the election on its platform, however @March_For_Trump suggests that its platform may have been utilized by Russian actors.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), says that Twitter will privately brief the committee on the matter.
Florida Trump campaign officials tell the Daily Beast that the Being Patriotic Trump events were not affiliated with the official campaign.
The report also found that Being Patriotic encouraged violence against U.S. citizens. “Arrest and shoot every sh*thead taking part in burning our flag! #BLM vs #USA,” said one tweet from the group, disparaging Black Lives Matters protesters.
On Tuesday, Warner and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said that they plan to hold a hearing this fall exploring Russian interference in the 2016 election on social media. They expect Facebook and potentially other social media companies to testify.
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