Rep. Dave Williams (R-Colorado Springs) posted a photo on his social media accounts of a shocking flyer calling for violence against Republicans on June 7, four days after local media reported that it was likely fake. Following his post, several other members of his party also shared the image.
Williams claimed George Floyd protesters distributed the flyers outside of the Colorado Capitol. He later told The Denver Post that a volunteer cleaning up afterward gave him the flyer.
Protesters and the State Patrol did not see such flyers at the Capitol protests. Williams’ own Caucus Chair Rep. Lori Saine (R-Firestone), who participated in Capitol clean-up, told Colorado Politics’ Michael Karlik she had not seen the flyer.
The flyer condemned Republicans for “ENSLAVING, KILLING the brown man!” and threatened to “eliminate them.”
It also called for “NO USA AT ALL! REJECT WHITENESS! … DEATH TO AMERICA!”
It claims to be from the Antifa movement, a far-left anti-fascist organization.
However, there is no evidence to back this.
Tay Anderson, the Denver School Board Director who’s been partially leading protests, told The Denver Post that he had never seen something like that at any of the protests. He believes that the flyer is likely an attempt to induce conflict, polarization, and smear the reputation of the mostly peaceful protests.
Benjamin R. Teitelbaum, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado who has written about the far-right, also told Colorado Politics that this is unlikely to be the work of the Antifa.
Michael Littwin, a columnist for the Colorado Sun, challenged Williams to back up his claims.
“Dave…do you just enjoy tweeting complete nonsense? Dinner is on me if you can link that to any Democrat. If you can’t, you should just admit it’s an ugly, ill-conceived piece of propaganda,” tweeted Littwin.
Nevertheless, other conservative leaders endorsed and retweeted Williams’ post, including Sen. Vicki Marble (R-Fort Collins), the 3rd ranked Republican in the state senate:
Mark Bromley, a candidate for House District 34 in Adams County, also shared the image, taking the statements at face value.
The Jefferson County Republican Party shared Williams’ Facebook post, but has since deleted it.
Twitter, which has marked President Trump’s recent tweets about the protests for lacking in facts and glorifying violence, did not mark or delete Williams’ tweet.
This week, Williams appeared on the Chuck & Julie podcast to once again claim that the flyer is real, despite not offering any proof:
“This was originally found by volunteers who were cleaning up the Capitol on Saturday… That’s when they came across the flier, which called for the murder of Republicans… I just simply took the photo of that flier and I put it out there on Twitter saying, this is disgusting. This is bad.
Is this real? Yeah, it is. Someone hyped it up. Someone printed up and circulated among the protest. Of course it’s real. What kind of question is that? Now, if I’m being generous, I think what they’re asking is, well, you know, is it the protest organizers to do that? And my response is, it doesn’t matter who did it. It’s wrong.”
Most of these posts use exaggerated, aggressive rhetoric to portray the anti-racism protesters and call for equally violent means of suppression.
The Floyd protests in Colorado have largely been peaceful, with minor looting incidents at night. Law enforcement officers seemed to be indiscriminately firing tear gas and shooting projectiles at protesters, especially in the first few days of protests.
However, state Rep. Patrick Neville’s (R-Castle Rock) latest fundraising email for Take Back Colorado echoes some of the flyer’s rhetoric, claiming that “violent thugs are roaming our streets unchecked, attacking innocent bystanders.”
Both the flyer and Neville’s email parrot President Trump’s own language portraying the protesters as “thugs” and “terrorists.”
“That’s the stuff that hurts African Americans in the long run,” Anderson told The Denver Post. “Any information that is shared like that puts black lives in danger.”
9News anchor Kyle Clark characterized the flyer as a hoax:
In general, conservatives are more likely to fall for fake news, according to an article by The Economist, which notes that conservatives’ “suspicion of and unease with the mainstream media” leads to an “increasing reliance of people on news-and-analysis echo-chambers, where TV channels and social media pages [reinforce] a certain view of the world based on a certain selection – and deselection – of facts to be believed or rejected.”
Additionally, according to the article, a voter pool polarized by fake news and radical views benefits Republicans:
“Liberals tend to be concentrated in cities; conservatives are more spread out. In winner-takes-all systems, this puts liberal parties at a disadvantage, as they pile up huge majorities in cities while conservative parties win more seats by lower margins elsewhere…Liberals have to win votes from moderates; conservatives can prevail by just getting out their base. As politics becomes more polarized, energizing the base gets easier, and winning over moderates harder.”
Most recently, alt-right pundit Michelle Malkin retweeted Williams’ tweet, calling the flyer a death threat against Colorado conservatives.