Last November, a few days after the election, thousands of people gathered for a rally in New York to protest Donald Trump. The Guardian reported on the scale of the Nov. 12 rally at the time:
More than 10,000 people indicated on Facebook that they would attend a noon march from Union Square to Trump Tower, the future president’s home and corporate headquarters.
As marchers mustered at East 17th Street and Broadway, organisers estimated the turnout at 2,000. As the march began to move, however, the true figure seemed closer to the promised 10,000.
Chanting “Not my president!”, the crowd set off up Fifth Avenue under heavy police escort. A call-and-response developed, protesters chanting: “Whose streets? Our streets!”…
Denise Mustafa, a video editor holding a sign that read “Adolf Trump”, said: “I want Donald Trump to know democracy is not going to be pushed aside. I want him to know we’re educated about what’s going on. This is a way to vent our anger in a healthy way and to let people know it’s not hopeless.”
It turns out those were also Russia’s streets. The Hill reports that this particular protest was organized on Facebook by a Russian group calling itself BlackMattersUS, which many people mistakenly assumed was some kind of Black Lives Matter offshoot:
The demonstration in New York City, which took place a few days after the election, appears to be the largest and most successful known effort to date pulled off by Russian-linked groups intent on using social media platforms to influence American politics.
Sixteen thousand Facebook users said that they planned to attend a Trump protest on Nov. 12, 2016, organized by the Facebook page for BlackMattersUS, a Russian-linked group that sought to capitalize on racial tensions between black and white Americans. The event was shared with 61,000 users…
The BlackMatters organizing group was connected to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian “troll farm” with ties to the Kremlin, according to a recent investigation by the Russian Magazine RBC. Facebook has identified the Internet Research Agency as the group responsible for purchasing 3,000 political ads on Facebook’s platform and operating 470 accounts that appear to have attempted to influence the perspectives of Americans during the 2016 elections.
This may have been the most popular event organized by the group but it was not the only such rally. In all, the group organized about ten events, including several before the election. The group also spent months doing interviews with well-known activists. A Google translation of an RBC story:
BlackMattersUS…managed to collect a whole portfolio of interviews with famous fighters for the rights of blacks. In addition to White, the community representatives talked with the legendary member of the Black Panthers movement Erica Huggins, the mother of the black teenager Ramarli Graham, killed by police in New York, the professor of Columbia University and the godfather rapper Tupac Shakur Jamal Joseph, as well as Ramone Africa, a member of the Philadelphia movement of black MOVE , one of the few survivors of the unprecedented local police raid in 1985…
Buzzfeed has more on the RBC story here. As the near-panic about Russian influence over the election continues, it’s worth recognizing that a significant aspect of that effort was telling people on the left what they wanted to hear and encouraging them to act accordingly.