BENTON, Ark. — False social media rumors that ANTIFA is busing in protestors to loot and damage neighborhoods are causing a lot of concern in communities across the country, including in Central Arkansas.
Many of the posts have gone viral to the point they’ve become an issue for police departments now tasked with responding.
A Facebook post made Tuesday afternoon warned, “stay safe and lock and loaded.” Police call it a false rumor that claimed ANTIFA had three bus-loads of members ready to hit neighborhoods in Maumelle, Benton, and Bryant.
Lee Hockersmith is the man who made the post that has now been shared nearly 4,000 times and prompted hundreds of comments.
“It may not have been a credible threat,” Hockersmith said. “I just wanted everyone to be aware of something that could possibly happen.”
Hockersmith says he got that information from a Little Rock Police SWAT officer and a board member at First Security Bank.
“I believe it,” he said. “I got that from a very good friend of mine.”
Bryant Police call it a dangerous rumor.
“When you start throwing out there on social media that’s when it creates the panic,” Sgt. Todd Crowson said.
In Bryant already stepped up patrols for protests shifted to monitoring this situation.
“This kind of stuff is what scares people and this is what we don’t want to happen,” Crowson added.
It puts more officers on the clock and working overtime, which comes at a price. Departments are already facing shrinking budgets because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now say it will take weeks to see just how much this will cost.
“It’s a snowball effect,” Crowson said. “You may take a small little post like that and it’s just going to snowball.”
As the post spread more departments are now involved. Both Little Rock and Conway Police used social media to try and dispel the rumor.
It’s attention Hockersmith never expected saying his goal was safety.
“I feel like if I had stopped one person from doing some looting or vandalizing, I’ve done something right,” he said.