Hundreds of thousands of people turned out across the United States on 24 March 2018 to participate in March for Our Lives, a grassroots protest against gun violence organized primarily by students moved to action as a result of recent mass school shootings that left dozens of innocent victims dead and injured.
Within a day of the nationwide marches, conspiracist web sites began trumpeting the claim that organizers working for billionaire George Soros had paid protesters $300 apiece to march and carry signs for the event. A report on YourNewsWire.com, for example, cited tweets by conservative Twitter personality Jacob Wohl purporting to provide evidence that the marches weren't as "grassroots" as they appeared:
#MarchForOurLives organizers paid protestors $300 each to attend the March 24 protest in Washington, D.C, according to reports.
Journalist Jacob Wohl found ads posted on Craigslist where Soros organizers looked to recruit paid protestors to attend the march.
“Here’s just one of many of the Craigslist ads where Soros Organizers were recruiting PAID protestors for #MarchForOurLives ! Don’t expect the MSM to talk about this,” the Editor In Chief for The Washington Reporter tweeted.
Wohl's tweets contained screenshots of the Craigslist ads he claimed were used to solicit paid protesters:
— Jacob Wohl (@JacobAWohl) March 25, 2018
Although the ads are authentic (we found additional examples targeting other U.S. cities where marches were planned), they clearly weren't soliciting paid protesters. On the contrary, they offered temporary sales positions to those interested in hawking march-related merchandise for a 20 percent commission:
MARCH FOR OUR LIVES anti-gun violence protest! Street team! CASH PAID (Los Angeles)
WE ARE HIRING UP UNTIL FRIDAY EVENING AT 7 PM
STILL HIRING 20-25 outgoing salespeople to sell merchandise at the gun March for Our Lives gun control protest. 50,000-100,000 people expected at Pershing Square in downtown L.A. SATURDAY, MARCH 24th
We will be selling March for Our Lives buttons, flags, wristbands, etc
Hours 7:30 am - 2 p.m.
Earn 20% commission on your sales. Average $120- $300++ CASH PAID
We have worked many resistance events, Women's Marches, etc. in L.A. over the last year. Our top sales people earn $200-$400+ per event!
Interested? Please send:
2) Recent photo
3) Cell # so we can text you work info
Thanks! We will update you work details via text message on Thursday evening!
A Google search turned up related ads (no longer extant as of this writing) soliciting managers for these sales teams, as well as for teams hired to sell merchandise at a "March for Science" event to be held the following month:
The content of the ads suggests they were placed by a third party (presumably a contractor), not by event organizers, and were intended to make a buck off of events sure to draw large crowds, not to recruit paid participants in those events. And nothing in their wording indicates a connection with George Soros or any of his organizations devoted to social activism.
Wohl reported in a follow-up tweet that when he answered one of the Craigslist ads, he received a response saying that although the sales positions had been filled, he could receive $50 for expenses if he chose to participate in the march:
Thanks for your offer to help us at #MarchForOurLives. Unfortunately we don't need anymore merch staff, but if you come to participate in the march, we can arrange to Venmo you $50 for your lunch and travel expenses." pic.twitter.com/RS67DmzuKN
— Jacob Wohl (@JacobAWohl) March 25, 2018
We note, however, that an offer of $50 to cover food and expenses does not prove Wohl's original claim that individuals were paid up to $300 each to protest. Moreover, we find it doubtful that a significant portion of the estimated 800,000 protesters who turned out in Washington, D.C. (to name just one city where a march took place) did so in response to a Craigslist solicitation for salespeople. (At $300 per protester, if only a quarter of the D.C. marchers turned out for the money, someone would have had to be prepared to shell out $60 million in cash.)
This is not the first time (nor do we expect it to be the last) that partisan groups have tried to discredit protesters by circulating claims that they were paid to show up. It was alleged without proof in March 2016, for example, that protesters who clashed with Donald Trump supporters at a Chicago event were political operatives hired via Craigslist ads soliciting "troublemakers" and paid by George Soros. Similar allegations circulated in the wake of Black Lives Matter demonstrations in 2015 and 2016. But although Soros-sponsored organizations have had a hand in promoting and supporting any number of progressive groups and social causes over the years, no evidence documents that the billionaire himself or his philanthropic entities have directly instigated or funded public protests, and to claim that these Craigslist ads are proof of just that earns this a rating of False.