Conservatives online are seizing on a call for peaceful protest and casting it as a call for violent revolution online.
An anti-Trump group called Refuse Fascism is calling for a protest a day starting November 4th across the United States. Organizers are asking protesters to come out every day until the Trump administration is no longer in power.
Known best for its ubiquitous signs emblazoned with a black-and-white "NO!" signs, Refuse Fascism advocates for the removal of Trump in the belief that his administration is a step closer to a fascist American government.
Sunsara Taylor, one of the co-founders of the group, told BuzzFeed News that Refuse Fascism organizes "mass nonviolent political protests" — November 4 included — because "only a movement that draws in millions in nonviolent sustained political protest can create the kind of society-wide political crisis where this regime is removed from power."
However, Taylor says the group "respects that people protest in different ways" and that condemning other protesters, even violent ones, "feeds into the divisive 'good protester, bad protester' narrative."
"People have the right to defend themselves if they are unjustly attacked," Taylor said, "and I won't condemn others who are standing up against fascism whose tactics I may not agree with."
Refuse Fascism's call-to-action on its website reads:
ON NOVEMBER 4, 2017:
We will gather in the streets and public squares of cities and towns across this country, at first many thousands declaring that this whole regime is illegitimate and that we will not stop until our single demand is met: This Nightmare Must End: the Trump/Pence Regime Must Go!
Our protest must grow day after day and night after night—thousands becoming hundreds of thousands, and then millions—determined to act to put a stop to the grave danger that the Trump/Pence Regime poses to the world by demanding that this whole regime be removed from power
It does not mention violence.
Jordan Peltz, who works for the private company US Warrant Service, posted a video to his YouTube channel in late September warning of an upcoming civil war. The video has been reposted and viewed hundreds of thousands of times.
In the video, he says, "On [antifa's] website, they're calling for an open civil war, which they will start in November. They are fundraising for weapons, ammunition, training, supplies...They're openly fundraising so they can attack." Refuse Fascism is not asking for firearms or ammunition, according to its website.
Peltz has been incorrectly identified as a law enforcement agent. He has worked for a private company called US Warrant Service, a private contractor that describes itself as an "elite paramilitary reconnaissance and warrant agency." US Warrant Service has operated out of Denver since November 2016, according to the company's website.
Peltz says that antifa members plan to attack first responders and "anyone in uniform" and then "white people and Trump supporters because you're a Nazi to them...I don't know why we're allowing this, but if our leadership isn't going to step up and finish this, we have to. That is our right, and that is what we must do."
Peltz claims on Craigslist the video has been viewed millions of times and that he has been doxxed because of it. He did not immediately respond to request for comment. He also maintains a Facebook page called Veritas Aequitas USA — Hosted by Jordan Peltz, which features a donkey wearing a Nazi armband as its profile picture.
No other self-proclaimed anti-fascist collectives have said on social media that they're planning to participate in the November 4th protests, contrary to the right-wing assertion that antifa writ large is calling for a giant, violent protest.
Taylor of Refuse Fascism told BuzzFeed News, "What they're saying is completely false. They’re blatant lies, and they’re creating and intending to intimidate people who want to stand up to the Trump/Pence regime. It's concerning that these lies are being spread and that they're unleashing threats."
The group also published statements condemning attacks on antifa — "There is NO moral 'equivalence' between those seeking to impose white supremacy and fascism, and those fighting against this nightmare" — and on the rash of conspiracy theories, calling them "lies and distortions by fascist web sites and trolls."
There are dozens of other videos like Peltz's on YouTube. They've been viewed millions of times collectively.
Here are a few of them:
"Antifa Plan Civil War To Overthrow the Government On Nov 4, 2017" — 152,000 views
"Civil unrest/ nov. 4th" — 338,000 views
"Trump Could Declare Martial Law In FIVE Cities After Receivig [sic] Chilling Warning About Nov. 4th | Top" — 250,000 views
"The Nov 4th civil war explained. Don't fall for it!!!!!" — 141,000 views
"Antifa To Start The War On November 4th" — 384,000 views
Alex Jones' YouTube channel, which has two million subscribers, posted a video on October 25 — "Breaking: DOD Exercise To Simulate National Power Grid Collapse On Antifa Day Of Rage." It's already been viewed nearly 30,000 times. InfoWars also published an article on the protest echoing Peltz's warning of civil war.
Some conservatives on Twitter are using the hashtag #CivilWar2017:
Though recently, left-wingers have used the hashtag to refute the idea that they are planning violent attacks:
Snopes also posted a debunk of the civil war conspiracy theory.
Peltz has seemingly tried to distance himself from his claim of antifa civil war, however, saying his original video was just a "rant I posted for my friends" that was taken out of context and "edited."
After his video went viral, Peltz responded to a Facebook post about the video in September, downplaying it by saying he had "little sleep" when he made it. He still says of antifa, though, that he will "stomp them out for good."
But he continues to post videos mocking antifa.
"We're not p***ies, so we don't have to hide our faces."
Refuse Fascism is asking protesters to come out to protest each day then return to their homes. An earlier version of this article said RF called for protesters to camp out in the streets.
Blake Montgomery is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.
Contact Blake Montgomery at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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