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Antifa bus hoax spreads panic across the US

Published Jun 6th, 2020 2:06PM EDT
Antifa Bus Hoax
Image: John Minchillo/AP/Shutterstock
  • An Antifa bus hoax is circulating widely on social media, targeting rural communities in America and warning about an imminent threat from highly organized Antifa units traveling in buses to specific towns to wreak havoc.
  • The Antifa fake news went viral in the last few days, following unsubstantiated remarks from Trump, who blames Antifa for the violence in the protests that swept the US in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.
  • While violence erupted during some of the protests, there was no evidence any incidents were connected with organized groups.

Antifa, short for anti-fascist, is not an actual organization controlling protesters and inciting to violence. But you may have heard that’s the case from social media in the wake of the protests against racism and police brutality that have swept the United States. Violence erupted in various cities, and some people destroyed property and looted. Police met these protests with increased intensity, failing to deploy appropriates response and instead shocking the world with even more unwarranted use of force.

But the violent protesters aren’t part of a coordinated effort coming for your small town. You also may have heard that “Antifa buses” are heading to your city to wreak havoc with their violence, but it’s nothing more than a hoax that went viral on social media. Sadly, it’s the kind of deception some people will believe, and it could be responsible for inciting further violence against peaceful people who took to the streets to protest after the murder of George Floyd.

In the days since Trump blamed Antifa for violent protests, Antifa-related fake news has plagued social media, Associated Press reported a few days ago. Trump took to Twitter to blame Antifa and the “radical left” for the violent protests. He’s also looking to designate Antifa as a terrorist organization.

On the same day the tweet above was posted, Attorney General William Barr issued a statement on the death of George Floyd “and riots,” and referenced Antifa as follows:

Groups of outside radicals and agitators are exploiting the situation to pursue their own separate and violent agenda.

In many places, it appears the violence is planned, organized, and driven by anarchistic and far left extremists, using Antifa-like tactics, many of whom travel from out of state to promote the violence.

There was no evidence to back of those statements, and Antifa was never mentioned in the first prosecutions of protest violence, per Daily Beast. Even so, Antifa chatter spiked online, with false rumors spreading with the help of fake social media accounts. In one such case, a Twitter account was created by a white nationalist group to spread fear, per NBC News.

The new Antifa bus hoaxes are tailored to specific regions to spread panic and misinformation locally, even though they’ve already been confirmed to be fake news. A family riding in a bus while camping was even harassed on Friday as people thought they were members of Antifa, via PeninsulaDailyNews:

Later that day in Forks, a multi-racial family of four from Spokane was followed by at least four vehicles — some with people with guns, they told deputies — as they left Forks Outfitters in a full-sized school bus. The family was trapped when they tried to leave their campsite after trees were felled to block the road, Clallam County Sheriff’s deputies said.

They were able to leave after four high school students cut the trees with chainsaws, said Sgt. Ed Anderson in a press release issued late Thursday.

A group in Idaho posted fake news about Antifa, warning people of violent riots in Boise, via Idaho Statesman:

ATTN Ada County BUSINESS OWNERS in Boise and Surrounding areas:

We have credible intel tonight that Antifa and other groups are planning a riot tonight in the Boise area. Their plan is to destroy private property in the city and continue to residential areas. We are calling on all business owners to contact us if you are concerned for your business and your private property immediately. We are here to protect you, your private business, and have teams on the ground standing by.

Some of these Antifa bus hoaxes were marked by local police as false information, as residents were calling to inquire about the news. Even a bus fleet owner in the region had to reach out on Facebook, inviting people to flag posts that may contain false information about his busses. “If anyone sees a post about my bus. Please flag it and get it taken down,” the person said, adding that a driver “was driving home from work, and someone posted it saying it’s full of Antifa.” His post was shared 38 times, but a far more popular post warned people to prepare for an imminent Antifa attack in the region.

Meanwhile, the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office released a statement making it clear that there was no evidence to support the Antifa threat mentioned in an article circulated on social media. “We have no evidence leading us to believe this threat is at all credible,” the statement reads. “It would appear that the author’s goal is to place fear in our community members, thereby creating fear and discontent.”

Some police officers fell for the Antifa hoax, such as Curry County Sheriff John Ward, who posted a warning on a Facebook page he manages. “I don’t know if the rumors are true or not just yet, but I got information about 3 (busloads) of ANTIFA protestors (who) are making their way from Douglas County headed for Coquille then to Coos Bay,” the post read on the now-deleted Facebook page. Ward told KTVL that the information was forwarded to him by the county attorney, who got it from a “kind of” private attorney.

Ward’s post also seemed to suggest that others should join in the defense if the threat proved to be real. “Without asking, I am sure we have a lot of local boys too with guns that will protect our citizens and their property,” the message read.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.