A handful of Air Force bases have warned airmen to stay away from rumored "Day of Rage" protests against police shootings supposedly organized by the hacktivist group Anonymous — but the alleged protests may turn out to be a hoax.
On Thursday morning, Scott Air Force Base in Illinois posted a message on its Facebook page warning airmen there about online reports of the protests, and suggesting they use caution and report suspicious activity to the authorities. Later that day, Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado posted a similar warning on Facebook.
"The Air Force recognizes the right of assembly and free speech, it is one of the rights military members serve to defend," Schriever wrote. "However, we also recognize how important each and every one of you are to us and our mission. Please be aware of your surroundings and exercise caution if you are in an area where the possibility of violence increases and make every effort to safeguard you and your family."
But the bases cautioned that the rumors could prove false. Scott said in its original post that "these rumors do not appear to be credible," and Schriever quickly cited the hoax-busting website Snopes.com to advise airmen that it could be fake.
A video announcing the protests was posted on YouTube July 9 by a group calling itself "TheAnonMessage," expressing outrage over the recent police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. The video — which contained graphic footage of the shootings and their aftermath — called for protests Friday evening in 37 cities, including outside the White House in Washington DC, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Detroit, Denver and St. Louis.
A demonstrator and supporter of the group Anonymous, poses during a march in protest against corrupt governments and corporations in front of the White House in Washington, DC, November 5, 2013, as part of a Million Mask March of similar rallies around the world on Guy Fawkes Day. Some Air Force bases have warned airmen about protests supposedly planned for July 15 by an organization claiming to be allied with the Anonymous movement, but the rumors of alleged "Day of Rage" protests have proven false before.
Photo Credit: SAUL LOEB, AFP/Getty Images
But questions were quickly raised online about the veracity of the video's protest claims. The Anonymous-linked Twitter feed @YourAnonNews on Wednesday flatly said there is no "Anonymous day of rage."
"TheAnonMessage isn't a credible source, he has been spreading false information before," the YourAnonNews Twitter feed said.
YourAnonNews said in follow-up tweets that other Anonymous-linked groups had shunned "TheAnonMessage" for making "stupid claims" such as alleging the CIA had kidnapped him.
Snopes.com on Monday posted a column that noted "this rumor is virtually identical to [a false rumor] that was circulated two years earlier" after the shooting of Mike Brown, which sparked massive protests in Ferguson, Missouri. However, Snopes has not yet definitively conclude this year's rumors are false.
Another Anonymous-linked group, called Anonymous Operation Ferguson, does not appear to have addressed the latest claims of the Day of Rage protests on its Twitter feed. But Snopes noted that when the same claims were made two years ago, Operation Ferguson denied those rumors.
"It's virtually impossible to say who specifically began 'Day of Rage' rumors calling for protests across the U.S. in August 2014," Snopes said. "However, no one appeared to actually be organizing or endorsing the actions mentioned in such rumors."