Violence Brewed in Facebook Groups Ahead of 'Stop The Steal' Protests

Violent rhetoric goes well beyond the short-lived "Stop The Steal" Facebook group.

Published Nov. 5, 2020

Image courtesy of Facebook

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On Oct. 30, 2020, the QAnon-supporting Alamo City Trump Train Facebook Group organized a pro-Trump pickup truck convoy that harassed a Biden-Harris campaign bus on Interstate 35 in Texas. The group referred to the event in a popular post as "Operation Block the Bus." Snopes was first to report that hundreds of group members liked a post that expressed the idea to "block" the bus. We also documented multiple cases that showed the group supports QAnon rhetoric. The FBI confirmed the incident is under investigation.

The group has continued to grow in membership and engagements as votes continued to be counted in key battleground states. Many of the group's posts and comments include debunked conspiracy theories regarding the counting of ballots, as well as harmless discussion about election results and ideas to have more parade-style events. However, a number of posts have crossed the line into violent rhetoric.

We twice reached out to Facebook for a statement on our previous story — first on Nov. 2, and then on Election Day. We did not receive a response.

A member in the group named Laz posted to "stay ready," and said: "This is WAR. War is hell."

Under a post that expressed nervousness about election results, one member responded: "Stand back and stand by!" This phrase is in reference to a remark by U.S. President Donald Trump at one of the presidential debates. He was asked about the Proud Boys, a far-right group with members who espouse white supremacism, and Trump's message was to "stand back and stand by."

A different post said: "If the process doesn’t work, then like someone said, do we wear red when war is declared? lol." In a post about former Vice President Joe Biden being projected to win Wisconsin, a commenter responded: "They’re stealing it…." Another said: "Fraud." A third commenter typed: "They are cheating."

We also found several mentions of counting ballots being called a "coup."

One member named Greg expressed: "Time to treat them like they treated you which is anything but respectful."

The same person named Greg also suggested organizing protests, potentially with "looting and burning," with the belief that the other side has done the same.

Posts in the Alamo City Trump Train group also suggested the idea of hitting the road: "Ok! Who wants to go on a road trip to PA??" Other members responded: "LETS ROLL" and "What time?" Another post mentioned heading to Arizona to "hold those people accountable."

"Hold the line Patriots. Hold the line," another commenter posted. One member suggested using "all means necessary" to defend the country: "Strap your boots on and be vigilant in defending this country by all means necessary! We can't fold to the EVILNESS THAT THEY CARRY. NO MORE NICE GUY!!!"

Another member commented with a similar message:

The QAnon conspiracy theory continues to litter the group. The hashtag "#WWG1WGA" continues to be included in posts and comments, referring to the QAnon slogan "Where We Go One We Go All."

One member with a profile picture of Jesus Christ and Trump commented with "WWG1WGA" under a post.

However, the artistic image of Jesus Christ has been doctored, and includes the face of convicted killer Charles Manson. Another group member posted the same image, and 49 members liked and loved it, apparently not noticing the change made by whoever doctored the image.

QAnon signage and flags were also a common sight at Alamo City Trump Train events, including in the group’s YouTube videos.

The Facebook group also has also several times promoted a new group named Stop The Steal, which was created on Nov. 4, 2020, and added 364,000 new members in less than 24 hours. It was organized by Women for America First, a Facebook page that is managed by Amy Saylors Kremer, former chair of Tea Party Express.

The group's description provided details on its purpose:

Democrats are scheming to disenfranchise and nullify Republican votes. It's up to us, the American People, to fight and to put a stop to it.

Along with President Trump, we will do whatever it takes to ensure the integrity of this election for the good of the nation.

This is a coalition/team effort. We need boots on the ground to protect the integrity of the vote.

FOCUSED ON - Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin AND Michigan.

Sign up for direct email contact - Social Media is already threatening to shut us down.

Donations are CRITICAL and needed for flights and hotels to send people in to GA, PA, NC, NV, AZ, WI, and MI.

Hours after the group was created, a member posted: "This is going to take more than talk to fix." Another member responded with three emojis that appeared to be gunshots or explosions.

Another person in Stop The Steal said they were willing to die for the election, and another person agreed.

The Stop The Steal Facebook group had organized nationwide in-person events for the first weekend following Election Day, posting: "End the fraud now!!!"

On Nov. 5, Facebook removed the Stop The Steal group.

On Election Day, Trump tweeted that the election was being stolen. On Nov. 5, he tweeted to "STOP THE COUNT!" and also "STOP THE FRAUD!" All three tweets were flagged by Twitter.

Facebook was used by extremists to plot the kidnapping of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and to organize armed militias in Kenosha.

A third example comes from Oct. 26, 2018. On that day, Cesar Sayoc was arrested in connection to sending 16 mail bombs to critics of Trump. None of the devices exploded, but he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. CNN's Donie O'Sullivan reported: "Facebook had previously removed multiple posts from Cesar Sayoc’s account for violating its community standards."

Josh Campbell, a former FBI supervisory special agent, appeared on "Anderson Cooper 360" to discuss the Sayoc arrest, and said: "I mean, the president isn't just to blame here, but there is some blame that rest with those who continue to incite people, because it only takes one incident, it only takes one deranged individual to take those incendiary words and meet them with incendiary devices which we saw in this case."

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