Q: Is a Craigslist ad proof that counterprotesters at a white nationalist rally were “paid to make chaos”?
A: No. The ad called for “actors and photographers” in Charlotte, North Carolina, not Charlottesville, Virginia, where the rally took place.
Were activists paid and solicited to rally against neo-Nazis in Charlottesville?
After a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville on Aug. 12 ended in violence, several websites posted stories claiming that people protesting against white nationalists at the event were paid actors.
A headline on rednewshere.com reads, “BREAKING: Charlottesville Protesters Were Payed [sic] To Make CHAOS, Here’s The Evidence.”Another headline, on newspunch.com, says, “Democrat ‘Crowd Hire’ Company Paid Rioters $25 An Hour To ‘Terrorize’ Charlottesville.”
The claim of paid protesters was credited to an Aug. 17 post on zerohedge.com. Facebook users flagged all of those stories as potentially fake news.
“ZeroHedge found a Craigslist ad posted several days prior to the Charlottesville protests from a firm called ‘Crowd Hire,’ recruiting ‘actors and photographers’ at $25 an hour,” the Red News story says. “Now, this is bringing doubts over how these paid protesters were used as campaigners in counter protests.”
But the so-called “evidence” that zerohedge.com wrote about is an online advertisement that says: “Actors and Photographers Wanted in Charlotte.” That’s right, Charlotte, North Carolina, not Charlottesville, Virginia. The cities are a roughly 270-mile drive apart.
The main text of the Craigslist ad reads: “Crowds on Demand, a Los Angeles-based Public Relations firm specializing in innovative events, is looking for enthusiastic actors and photographers in the Charlotte, NC area to participate in our events. Our events include everything from rallies to protests to corporate PR stunts to celebrity scenes. The biggest qualification is enthusiasm, a ‘can-do’ spirit. Pay will vary by event but typically is $25+ per hour plus reimbursements for gas/parking/Uber/public transit.”
Crowds on Demand is a real company. It was founded in 2012 by UCLA graduate Adam Swart. The “protests and rallies” page on the company’s website says: “Whether your organization is lobbying to move forward a healthcare, financial or other social initiative, we can organize rallies and get media attention for your causes and candidates.”
But the Craigslist ad is not proof that anyone was paid to be a counterprotester in Charlottesville, or to be disruptive for that matter anywhere else. For one thing, the ad asked job seekers if they were “ok with participating in peaceful protests.”
For the record, Swart, the CEO of Crowds on Demand, told FactCheck.org in an email that his company was “not involved in any capacity with the recent tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia.” He has previously said that his group will work with all political parties, but will not work with hate groups.
There was an anti-racism vigil in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Aug. 13. That was the day after the “Unite the Right” rally, where one female counterprotester was killed and 19 others were injured when a car plowed into a crowd.
But Scott Huffman, the founder of Indivisible Charlotte, the anti-Donald Trump group which organized the vigil, said that his team also did not hire Crowds on Demand.
“Indivisible Charlotte did not request or hire or pay anybody for appearing,” Huffman said in an interview with Snopes.com.
Stanglin, Doug, and Cavallaro, Dave. “1 dead, 19 injured as car hits crowd after a ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville; driver in custody.” USA Today. 13 Aug 2017.
Farley, Robert. “Was Driver Acting in Self-Defense?” FactCheck.org. 21 Aug 2017.
“BREAKING: Charlottesville Protesters Were Payed [sic] To Make CHAOS, Here’s The Evidence.” Rednewshere.com. 18 Aug 2017.
Durden, Tyler. “Why Was This ‘Crowd Hire’ Company Recruiting $25 An Hour ‘Political Activists’ In Charlotte Last Week?” Zerohedge.com. 17 Aug 2017.
“Actors and Photographers Wanted in Charlotte.” Advertisement. Craigslist.com. 7 Aug 2017, Accessed 24 Aug 2017.
MacGuill, Dan. “Was a Crowd Hire Company Involved in Protests Against a White Supremacist Rally?” Snopes.com. 15 Aug 2017.
“VIGIL For Charlottesville.” Facebook.com. Accessed 22 Aug 2017.
Wester, Jane. “Hundreds gather to ‘stand against hate’ uptown Sunday night.” Charlotte Observer. 13 Aug 2017.
Gillin, Joshua. “No evidence that protesters are paid to disrupt Republican town hall meetings.” Politifact.com. 27 Feb 2017.
Schneider, Dan. “1-800-HIRE-A-CROWD.” The Atlantic. 22 Jul 2015.