Video Suggests Colorado Police Also Fell for ‘Antifa Civil War’ Conspiracy Theory
A video uploaded in November 2017 indicates that police officers in Colorado were deceived by a right-wing conspiracy theory about Antifa, yet another example of LEOs believing in weaponized misinformation about antifascists.
On November 2, 2017, a self-proclaimed civil rights activist named Terrell Clayton was detained by Colorado Springs-Falcon Division (CSFD) police officers while he was conducting a “first amendment audit,” which consisted of filming police activity in the area. He uploaded a video of the encounter on YouTube on November 4 and claimed he had been “illegally detained” by the CSFD.
On November 5, Clayton videotaped himself filing a complaint at CSFD headquarters where the on-duty lieutenant revealed that part of the reason Clayton was detained was that the department had “information” that Antifa was “supposed to be coming” to Colorado Springs on November 4, two days after the incident.
Their exchange about Antifa is as follows:
Clayton: “There are groups around the country — First Amendment auditors…they go videotape officials in the course of their duties and see how they respect their rights.”
Officer: “That’s part of the reason you were detained. We had information that this group was supposed to be coming to town and disrupt public services.”
Clayton: “Really? Oh, Antifa, huh?”
Officer: “Antifa. Look it up. From November 4th. Once they [the officers that detained Clayton] arrived at a conclusion that they didn’t have probable cause to believe a crime was committed, you were released…”
The brief exchange suggests that not only did the police officers apparently take a right-wing rumor about an Antifa-led civil war on November 4 seriously, they also used their “information” to partially justify the illegal detainment of a civilian. (The city later paid Clayton $41,000 in a settlement agreement in early 2018.)
It’s likely that the following list was part of the intel the officer referred to in his conversation with Clayton.
Colorado Springs appeared in an October 26 list of purported target cities of the Antifa insurrection. Unfortunately, the page, which was located at RedNewsSite.com/2017/10/26/heres-list-places-leftists-plan-riots-november-4th, is no longer available, nor was I able to find an archived version of the page. However, several reactions to the list strongly suggest that Colorado Springs was indeed on it.
According to Snopes, the weaponized rumor of an Antifa civil war is believed to have originated in an August 2017 video by Jordan Peltz, a man who was incorrectly identified as a US marshal. In it, he said:
“On [Antifa’s] website, they are calling for an open civil war that they will start here in the United States in November.”
Fake Antifa accounts also promoted the conspiracy theory on Twitter.
However, to the disappointment of gung-ho conspiracy theorists, antifascists did not start a civil war on November 4. Several antifascist groups did hold protests that day, but none were violent.
Although we don’t know when or where the Colorado Springs Police Department first heard about the rumor, the fact that they apparently considered it “information” is deeply concerning, especially in the “post-truth era.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time police officers have been duped by misinformation about the US antifascist movement.
On May 1, 2018, Unicorn Riot reported that the overly aggressive tactics used by police officers against antifascist counterprotesters in Newnan, Georgia during a neo-Nazi April 21 rally “were motivated in part by disinformation, created and shared by members of a far-right militia, which law enforcement had accepted as fact.”
The Colorado Springs and Newnan cases also underline the urgency for local police departments to train their officers about weaponized misinformation on social media. For instance, officers across the country should learn how to identify troll accounts, as well as learn how to counter partisan attempts to manipulate officers online in the run up to major protests and rallies.
Such training could very well save the lives of LEOs and civilians, especially in this divisive day and age.