MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — New reporting suggests several Facebook accounts tied to Russia helped organize and finance dozens of divisive protests across the country in 2016, including in Minnesota.
The Wall Street Journal reports a July 9, 2016, protest for Philando Castile in Minneapolis that led to a shutdown of I-94 was partially aided by the Facebook account named “Don’t Shoot,” which has been linked to Russia. The protest left 21 police officers injured and led to the arrest of 102 people.
The Russia-linked accounts didn’t just fund anti-police causes, according to the Journal. Following the July 7, 2016, fatal shooting of five police officers in Dallas, Russian accounts offered support to organizers of a Blue Lives Matter rally in the city a few days later.
In all, the Journal says at least 60 rallies, protests and marches were publicized — and even financed via bank cards or money transfer services — by the Facebook accounts.
In August 2016, a Russia-linked page “Born Patriotic” planned 17 pro-Trump rallies across the country, the newspaper reports. Another Russian page — “Black Matters” — hosted dozens of anti-Trump rallies after the election.
An expert on Russian propaganda who spoke to the Journal says the country believes protests destabilize democracies, and thus likely aimed to organize as many as possible to sow division in the U.S.