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A Fake Story Tricked Trump Supporters Into Protesting For No Reason, Then One Of Them Accidentally Shot Himself

The protest appears to have started with a story on a fake antifascist Facebook account that was actually set up to troll leftists.

Originally posted on
Updated on

On Saturday, a man accidentally shot himself in the leg at Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania, where dozens of people had assembled to protest reports of a group allegedly planning to desecrate Confederate graves and burn flags — except it turns out all those reports were a hoax.

Blood Spilled At Gettysburg Anti-Antifa Rally…When Militia Member Shoots Himself in the Leg https://t.co/wOB56rpfsM

The first reported article about a July 1 Gettysburg antifascist protest was from a Facebook page with only a few hundred followers called Harrisburg100. It published its story on June 14.

Facebook: hbg100

The article appears to have been based on an Eventbu page, which has since been taken down. The author writes, "a local group of self-proclaimed anti-fascism activists called ‘ANTIFA’ are planning on holding a rally at Gettysburg National Battlefield on July 1st in protest of President Trump and asks it’s members to 'Bring and Burn Confederate Flags'."

According to Harrisburg100's website, "the mission of Harrisburg100 is to spread civic engagement, and to educate the public on local politics in interesting ways."

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The Harrisburg100 article also links to a Facebook page called Harrisburg Antifa, which has about 100 followers. In May, they warned that they were going to be at Gettysburg National Military Park on July 1.

Facebook: HarrisburgAntifa

The page's about section reads, "ALERT! ALERT! ANTIFASCIST IN HBG. Fighting Racism, Transphobia, Homophobia and Police Brutality. #Resist #BashTheFash."

Harrisburg Antifa appears to be a troll account and hasn't updated in over a month. The page lists its website as itsgoingdown.org — a general website for antifascists. Also, the page has been called fake by the Central PA Antifa Facebook page, which has considerably more followers.

Trump supporters and far-right trolls have a history of creating fake antifascist social media accounts and then using those accounts to troll real antifascist organizations. A similar thing happened in Boston in March.

On June 21, an anonymous user claiming to be a member of the Harrisburg Antifa posted the Harrisburg100 article on 4chan's politics message board, /pol/, writing, "Gettysburg is OURS July 1st!!"

The next day, far-right writer Jack Posobiec posted a screenshot that described a Facebook event for a counter-protest called "Support America and Her History, Rally! If You Hate US, Leave!"

Twitter: @JackPosobiec

The text from Posobiec's screenshot doesn't appear publicly anywhere else online.

Posobiec didn't delete his initial tweet, but he did tweet multiple times after the fact that the event was fake.

"I published a full correction to the tweet and and spent days explaining it was a hoax," Posobiec told BuzzFeed News. "Fox News didnt do this, Philly Inquirer didnt do this, but Jack Posobiec did. When I realized it was a hoax I immediately focused my energy on putting out my correction."

A day after that, the Gettysburg Times, a local Pennsylvania news site, wrote a story about how Confederate groups had applied for permits to demonstrate at Gettysburg National Military Park after seeing social media chatter about antifascists' plan to desecrate the park.

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That same day, the Central PA Antifa Facebook page warned its followers that the rumors of an antifascist protest at Gettysburg were fake, instead telling them to meet and demonstrate in Philadelphia on July 2.

Gateway Pundit aggregated Harrisburg100's story a few days later, on June 26, and its version was then upvoted 3,000 times on the /r/The_Donald subreddit.

Breitbart picked up the story the following day, on June 27, writing that "members of the so-called 'Antifa' movement are promising to 'desecrate' the graves" at Gettysburg.

breitbart.com

Breitbart had three sources for its story. One was a Philly.com article about two groups, Sons of Confederate Veterans and Real 3% Risen, which had received permits for demonstration in part of the park from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on July 1.

"Reports that the anti-fascist group Antifa plans to burn Confederate flags and desecrate graves have prompted calls on social media for other groups to gather in Gettysburg to counter those protesters," the Philly.com article reads.

The next source Breitbart's article cites is the original Harrisburg100 post. And then finally, it points to a May 4 forum thread from civilwar.com titled "Gettysburg, Marietta planned Antifa demonstrations."

The user who posted it, Stiles/Akin, links to a Facebook event page that has since been pulled down.

Once articles about the hoax protest and counter-protest were published by Breitbart, other far-right internet personalities, like Cassandra Fairbanks, promoted them. Fairbanks' tweet is embedded in various right-wing articles, but it appears as though Fairbanks has since deleted the original.

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Then Fox News published a piece on the antifascist rumors on June 30.

foxnews.com

"Reports of possible disruptive or even violent actions by the militant left-wing group AntiFa at Gettysburg National Park this weekend have the Park Service acting with an 'abundance of caution,'" the article reads.

Which brings us back to July 1, when dozens of far-right and confederate protesters showed up to defend Gettysburg from antifascists who were never going to actually show up in the first place.

(thread) Yesterday, militia groups showed up at the Gettysburg battlefield memorial ready for their own battle vs.… https://t.co/AKPesnqW9U

“Our movement today is going to send a message to Antifa that we’re not playing around,” one man said to the crowd from a loudspeaker. “And if you’re going to come to our national parks and cause problems we’re going to be here to meet you.”

...based on a rumor Antifa would damage graves. Antifa groups called it a hoax. In the end, none showed up.

Then to cap things off, Benjamin Hornberger, 23, shot himself in the leg.

But 3 percenters, Sons of Confederate Veterans, others did. They held a rally to "send a message to Antifa we're no… https://t.co/EK0iq9qvtG

Hornberger accidentally triggered his revolver as he briefly rested the bottom of his flagpole against the holster it was in, Penn Live reported. Park police applied a tourniquet until he could be transported by paramedics.

Blood Spilled At Gettysburg Anti-Antifa Rally…When Militia Member Shoots Himself in the Leg https://t.co/wOB56rpfsM

The Central PA Antifa Facebook page wrote about the whole incident, accusing PennLive.com of creating hysteria.

Facebook

"Y'all still show up and shoot yourselves?" the Facebook post reads. "I guess you had to shoot somebody eh? PennLive.com should be ashamed of itself for helping perpetuate this bullshit hysteria....whatever gets clicks, eh?"

UPDATE

This article has been updated with a statement from Jack Posobiec.

Ryan Broderick is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Ryan Broderick at ryan@buzzfeed.com.

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