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Like in many of the protests that have recently sprung up in cities across the United States, the group was made up of white, black and Latino people, members of the Native American Klamath Tribes and people in the LGBTQ communities: a diverse coalition in a county of 68, where 9 out of every 10 residents are white, according to Census estimates.
They held s, many of which have become common during recent protests: "Black Lives Matter" and "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Just across the street, hundreds of their mostly white neighbors were there for decidedly different reasons. They leaned in front of local businesses The Daily Bagel and Rick's Smoke Shop wearing military fatigues and bulletproof vests, with blue bands tied around their arms.
Most everyone seemed to be carrying something: flags, baseball bats, hammers and axes. But mostly, they carried guns. They said they came with shotguns, rifles and pistols to protect their downtown businesses from outsiders. They had heard that antifa, paid by billionaire philanthropist George Soros, were being bused in from neighboring cities, hellbent on razing their idyllic town. Frederick Brigham, 31, Klamath Falls resident and musician who goes by "Wreck the Rebel," said he never thought Black Lives Matter protests would come to his town.
As one of the few black men who lives there, he felt compelled to attend. While large rallies in major cities have been the most visible part of recent social efforts to change how police treat black people, hundreds more have popped up in small, rural townswhere residents have marched and kneeled to protest police brutality.
Those protests — and some of the violence and looting that have accompanied them — have become the source of growing skepticism and paranoia in conservative circles. The most persistent rumors center on groups of antifa members being put on buses and sent to small towns to wreak havoc.
The rumors are unfounded. But that hasn't stopped people in some communities, like Klamath Falls, from preparing for the worst. Towns from Washington state to Indiana have seen armed groups begin patrolling the streets after receiving warnings about an antifa invasion, often spurred by social media or passed along from friends. Those actions have yet to erupt in major violence but often bring heavily armed people in close contact with protesters, as it did in Klamath Falls. Tensions were already high in Klamath Falls. Peaceful protests miles north in Eugene, Oregon, had been followed by a fire in the street and looting.
On local social media, rumors were swirling that buses filled with outsiders were planning to infiltrate Klamath Falls to wreak similar havoc. So some Klamath Falls residents armed themselves and hit the streets. Those that had children to look after watched the downtown protests from Facebook, according to comments left on the stream. The rally lasted about four hours with Klamath Falls Police Department officers standing between the two sets of protesters.
On the north side of the street, protesters chanted "George Floyd. They thought I must be a black man that came from somewhere else. Like nearly every other county in the U. Since nationwide protests began, President Donald Trump and U.
Attorney General Bill Barr have without evidence blamed the antifa movement — a loose network of groups made up of radicals who rely on direct action, and sometimes violence, to fight the far right and fascism — for the looting and property damage seen during some of the otherwise peaceful rallies.
Last week, Trump announced that he planned to deate antifa as a terrorist organization. That unsubstantiated finger-pointing has coincided with viral rumors on social media — posts on Facebook and Nextdoor that buses filled with thousands of antifa members and anarchists were on their way to loot suburban neighborhoods.
Some seen by NBC News featured a screenshot of a tweet by a fake antifa Twitter that Twitter said was created by a white nationalist group. Their intentions are to come to Klamath Falls, destroy it, and murder police officers. Some responding to the posts were incredulous, but few could argue when a screenshot of a direct message from Col. We received an alert that there may be 2 buslo of ANTIFA protesters en route to Klamath Falls and arriving in downtown around tonight," the post stated.
Nikki Jackson, a spokeswoman for the rd Fighter Wing, confirmed in an that the message had come from Edwards.
As the day went on, the town buzzed with talk of the incoming rioters, and residents swarmed to Facebook to report what they were seeing. The antifa buses became a kind of local scavenger hunt. Someone spotted an empty green bus at Klamath Community College. A white bus with "Black Lives Matter" and peace s painted in green and blue was spotted in the Walmart parking lot.
Someone reported a U-Haul in front of T. Maxx, or maybe it was the House of Shoes. Rumors of marauding antifa buses have popped up on local social media networks all across the country, sometimes leading to direct, dangerous action by locals and police departments. In Forks, Washington, locals felled trees with chainsaws to block a road, fearing that a bus filled with antifa was headed to town. According to the Peninsula Daily Newsthe bus was occupied by a multi-racial family of four heading home from a campsite.
It was eventually surrounded "by seven or eight carlo of people in the grocery store parking lot. Police and dispatchers in South Bend, Indiana, were inundated with calls warning of "buslo of people coming in from the toll road. NBC News reviewed similar warnings and posts of panic in local apps like Nextdoor and Facebook groups from all throughout the country this week.
A post in a Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, Facebook group implored residents to "protect yourselves, your family and your businesses" from a "serious rumor" about a group "organizing to riot and loot. Similar warnings were posted in Nextdoor groups everywhere from Jacksonville, Florida, to Danville, California.
That night, hundreds gathered at the Coos County Courthouse with guns, awaiting arrival of the antifa buses, the Bandon Western World reported. Douglas Bankler told NBC News the antifa bus rumor may have started on Facebook, but it spread through the town like a real-life game of telephone.
Five square miles," he said. Ryan Brosterhous told local newspaper Herald and News. One person was cited for disorderly conduct and several were detained and released. The armed man who livestreamed the protest, who was worried about antifa coming to murder white people, posted an update to his Facebook acknowledging the risks had been overblown.
Still others remain convinced that antifa had been there that night, run off by the sight of hundreds of armed patriots. The article quotes a Facebook post by Dan Kline, the owner of a local billiards bar. It was like a sixth grade football team walking into the Oakland Coliseum to take on the Raiders.
Reached by phone, Kline said he was proud of the way the counterprotest took a stand against antifa and showed the world what would happen should any outside group try and bring a fight to Klamath Falls. But he also described a different scene than in his Facebook post: a peaceful protest from a "small group of. Free from the threat of antifa, the armed residents of Klamath County have mostly stayed home in recent days.
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