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'Not the Small-Town Rumor Mill': False Claims Spread During Protests

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Earlier this week, the sheriff of Payette County dispelled a rumor that Antifa activists were being sent to Idaho. (MclittleStock/Adobe Stock)
Earlier this week, the sheriff of Payette County dispelled a rumor that Antifa activists were being sent to Idaho. (MclittleStock/Adobe Stock)
June 4, 2020

BOISE, Idaho -- No, people associated with Antifa are not on their way to Idaho.

But rumors are spreading online that rioters are coming to small communities to wreak havoc.

Matt Hildreth, executive director of RuralOrganizing.org, says civic leaders across the country have reached out to his group over concerns that people from big city protests over police brutality are coming to their towns.

He says in some cases, folks in different cities and states cited posts or emails with the exact same wording.

"We were able to uncover a pretty intense misinformation campaign that's specifically targeting law enforcement officials, business leaders and civic patrol or local militia groups," he points out.

Last weekend in Coeur D'Alene, members of the Three Percenters militia said they were downtown to protect the community from Antifa, a political protest movement opposed to fascism and other forms of right wing ideology.

Earlier this week the sheriff of Payette County dispelled the rumor that Antifa activists were sending "a planeload of their people" to incite a riot.

Hildreth says it's not clear who is the source of these messages but they have been aimed at both left-leaning and right-leaning groups on Facebook, sometimes with the intention of pitting them against one another.

Hildreth notes he's from a small town and the misinformation spreading isn't normal.

"Everybody knows about the small town rumor mill," he states. "This is not the small town rumor mill. If things feel different, it's because they are different. This is an activated campaign and this is intentional."

Hildreth says people should be skeptical of claims made online that don't have a name attached to them.

"Listen to people that you know but disagree with more than people you don't know but agree with," he urges.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID