An image that began circulating on Facebook on Tuesday depicted an alleged antifascist recruitment flyer from Denver’s Monday night protests over police killings of African Americans. It appears, however, that the flyer is fake.
“Democrat!!! Hear the call!!! The time for action is now!” read the flyer. It accused Republicans of “ENSLAVING, KILLING the brown man!”
The document included further incendiary statements that "Republicans are not actual humans,” “God approves of killing them,” and “It is time to eliminate them before they kill us all!”
The image originated on a Facebook page titled “Californuzuela,” which labels itself as a news and media organization whose mission is to “bring awareness to the dangerous path of Socialism and the future of California.”
The page is filled with news articles about “antifa,” the abbreviation for the anti-fascist movement whose members aggressively counter-protest right-wing demonstrations. Californuzuela posted on Tuesday morning, “ANTIFA recruitment flyers being passed out last night in Denver,” with the image attached. As of Wednesday morning, 197 people had shared it.
“WAKE UP AMERICA,” wrote one Facebook user. "This is antifa a left wing terrorist group that is very well funded. They are today's version of kkk devoted to the democratic party.”
Another user who shared the post indicated that “rubber bullets will have to be replaced.”
Protests have occurred daily in Denver and in cities across the country following the videotaped May 25 slaying of a Minneapolis man, George Floyd, in police custody. Demonstrations have largely been peaceful, although there have been instances of nighttime vandalism and looting from people not necessarily associated with the protests. Police have also come under criticism for deploying tear gas, foam bullets, and other forceful tactics without provocation.
On Sunday, President Donald Trump tweeted that he would designate antifa as a terrorist organization, to which one former U.S. Department of Justice official observed that such powers only extend to designations of foreign groups. Antifa emerged prominently after the 2017 white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, Va., that resulted in the murder of one woman.
Multiple parties who have been involved with the protests in Denver doubted that the Facebook image showed an authentic antifa document.
Occupy Denver said that it found “no such evidence of such material….No such flyers have been found by any of our community.”
“The first hint [that it is fake] is that it's a call to Democrats - leftist protestors do not identify as democrats,” wrote Showing Up for Racial Justice, a white-led anti-racism group. “It's also clearly worded to incite violence, which is a far right tactic, and protestors do not advocate violence.”
SURJ added that this was almost certainly the work of a right-wing operative, claiming that the protesters generally see “Republicans and Democrats as equally complicit in racism and would not single out Republicans.”
Benjamin R. Teitelbaum, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado who has written about the far right, observed that the anti-fascist movement does not consist of “formal organizations that can monitor everything their members produce and say, but my instinct is that this in no way looks like the type of material antifa would produce.”
He elaborated that the document painted a caricature of a left-wing activist and lacked any identifying information.
‘"No border, No wall, No USA at all’ line is a reference to an occasional chant antifa uses, but one more often parodied and ridiculed by their opponents on the right,” Teitelbaum said. The use of a slur for gay people near the end of the flyer “makes me think some (probably juvenile) opponent of antifa on the right made this up.”
After Colorado Politics contacted Californuzuela with a series of questions, the webpage updated the post with a label of "unsubstantiated."
"After reviewing, I could not find anything to substantiate the flyer image’s authenticity or where it originated," Californuzuela replied. "In these times, the reaction to share things we see that bother us needs to be tempered with patience and fact checking. Californuzuela failed in this instance."
On Monday, Twitter announced that it suspended the account registered by a far-right group posing as an antifa organization, saying that its tweets incited violence. The Anti-Defamation League reported that extremist groups in the current climate hope to exacerbate racial tensions or that the violence “will lead to a long-promised ‘race war.’”
State Rep. Lori Saine, R-Firestone, helped clean up graffiti on the state capitol and its monuments on Tuesday morning. “Wow. No,” she said when asked if she had seen the flyer. She said that she would ask the capitol’s workers who were cleaning up trash whether they retrieved anything that resembled it.
Editor's note: Since publication, Californuzuela has updated its post to deem the flyer "unsubstantiated."