Disinformation: Buses of protesters

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Overview: Despite widespread rumors about busloads of antifa protesters traveling the country, there is no evidence this is happening.

Description: On the last weekend in May 2020, in the early days of protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd, communities nationwide were gripped by rumors about buses full of antifa protesters. On Twitter, Facebook and Nextdoor, some people claimed they had seen buses of antifa driving on highways or even arriving in small towns. Others shared text messages claiming that their friends or family in law enforcement had received tips that antifa was sending buses of protesters to their communities. Many of these rumors intersected with other elements of disinformation, including conspiracies about George Soros funding antifa and fears about antifa targeting white suburbs—a rumor which was largely sparked by a fake antifa Twitter account connected to the white supremacist group Identity Evropa.

The disinformation rapidly spread from online platforms to the physical world, including in Chicago, where on May 30, the police department scanner repeatedly broadcast an unsubstantiated rumor about thousands of protesters traveling by bus from Indiana to Illinois. In Washington state, an interracial family traveling by bus on a camping trip was harassed and trapped at a campsite when a group of armed locals, who accused the family of being antifa protesters, felled trees to block the road. In other cases, charter bus companies have seen photographs of their vehicles manipulated and shared as supposed evidence of antifa incursions. The New York Times tracked antifa-related rumors in more 40 communities nationwide, including in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where the local Chamber of Commerce promoted a (false) claim about buses of protesters heading for the city. In several towns and cities, armed locals and members of militia groups gathered in response to the rumored busloads of protesters, which never arrived.

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