No, Protesters Aren’t Being Paid to Protest at Inauguration

The Demand Protest scam - No, Protesters Aren't Being Paid to Protest at Inauguration

Right wing media and blogs have been aflutter this week claiming a group named “Demand Protest” is organizing and paying people to protest at Donald Trump’s inauguration. While an even cursory investigation of the ‘organization’ behind the scheme should raise several red flags, one media personality exposed the operation as a sham – and it’s the last person you’d expect: Fox News’ Tucker Carlson.

‘Demand Protest’ claims to be an organization comprised of “strategists mobilizing millennials across the globe with seeded audiences and desirable messages.” They are accused of posting advertisements to online classifieds looking for protesters they can pay up to $2,500 a month “on top of standard per-event pay of $50/hr” (plus benefits, apparently).

The organization began making news when conservative media jumped on the story (sans fact-checking or investigation) claiming they finally had proof “leftists” were organizing violence against the incoming President. Gateway Pundit and Truthfeed called it a “far left group” while Alex Jones at Infowars outright blamed the DNC and Democrats at large (without a shred of evidence). This in turn led to articles in more widely read conservative publications like the Washington Times.

The latter has since adjusted their headline (without noting the original reporting error) while a majority of the other sites are still reporting the scam as real news.

‘Demand Protest’ is allegedly a San Francisco-based LLC (though no company is registered under that name) with a phone number no one answers. It claims to have worked with 15 partners on 17 causes during 48 campaigns with 1817 operatives, but the site was just created on December 2, 2016 meaning that’s logistically implausible.

Without being able to verify anything about the organization, its funding, its goals or the truth in its operations, the majority of the right ran with the story. It wasn’t until Fox’s Tucker Carlson brought a representative from the organization onto his show that the sham became obvious.

Speaking with a man named “Dom Tullipso” (which, it turns out, wasn’t his real name), Tucker exposed the organization as a scam. Not only that, Tullipso slipped during his interview when referring to Chelsea Manning’s sentence commutation by referring to her as ‘Peyton’ – her male name before coming out as transgender. No actual liberal grassroots organization would make such an obvious error.

While it’s impossible at this point to tell what the group’s actual intentions were (other than to troll gullible conservatives), it can’t be ignored that this is the second time in recent history a conservative group posed as a liberal grassroots organization to try to paint Democrats as violent protesters. The last instance – which we reported on here – was carried out by James O’Keefe in a similar undercover operation in which he attempted to pose as a similar organization paying protesters to riot at the inauguration.

SFist – who also investigated the fake ‘Demand Protest’ organization – offered similar conclusions:

While to me, Demand Protest looks like an obvious sham organization created for the purpose of dismissing real, grassroots protesters for liberal causes as potentially paid operatives, far-right sites like truthfeed see it differently. They speculate that Demand Protest could be linked to Democratic donor and activist George Soros. It’s “hard to tell if they are associated with Soros but considering all of the violent protest movements are Soros funded, #BlackLivesMatter and #Occupy, it is a safe bet that Soros is also funding this radical leftist group.” Very hard to tell indeed. (Also, just to make sure no one’s confused here, Soros has nothing to do with Black Lives Matter, though the alt-right has seized on the fact that a grantmaking group he once founded did give some money to groups engaging in Ferguson-related protests and activities.)

More likely Demand Protest could be linked to someone like fake news wunderkind James O’Keefe, the guy behind the 2009 “pimp” hoax involving Acorn and the 2015 hoax videos about Planned Parenthood harvesting fetus organs, and who the HuffPo reports was recently caught by activists on the left attempting to bribe them with large sums of money to incite a riot or “shut down a bridge” during Trump’s inauguration.

Donald Trump himself has suggested, without basis, that protesters are paid to agitate against him in an appearance on CBS’s 60 Minutes, perhaps because he read something to that effect on the aforementioned far-right websites. Here Politifact offers one salient example: A fake news story during the presidential campaign in which a protester supposedly claimed he was paid $3,500 to agitate at a Trump rally. That was entirely discredited when a Facebook fake-news writer came forward to confess that he’d written the story himself, inventing it from whole cloth. Paul Horner, a man who has convinced people he’s the graffiti artist Banksy, told the Washington Post “[Trump’s] followers don’t fact-check anything — they’ll post everything, believe anything.” With reference to onetime Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, Horner added that, “His campaign manager posted my story about a protester getting paid $3,500 as fact. Like, I made that up. I posted a fake ad on Craigslist.”

As of the publication of this article, the majority of conservative sites originally reporting ‘Demand Protest’ as being a Democratic or ‘leftist’ operation still have not updated their articles despite Carlson’s devastating interview.

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Tim Peacock is the Managing Editor and founder of Peacock Panache and has worked as a civil rights advocate for over twenty years. During that time he’s worn several hats including leading on campus LGBT advocacy in the University of Missouri campus system, interning with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, and volunteering at advocacy organizations. You can learn more about him at his personal website.

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