Charlotte Among Cities Russians Targeted with Rally Cries

CHARLOTTE, NC — Turns out Charlotte was among the Russian rally cry scam listed in the Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigation into the 2016 election interference case.

Russian Nationalists posed as Americans, used false identities, and created fake social media pages to spread distrust and doubt across the U.S.

The indictment says Russians planned an anti-Trump rally in Charlotte on Nov. 19, 2016.

Investigators say Russia used real issues, like racism, organized protests on both sides and watched as it escalated.

Those who have seen how violent rallies say can become say it’s playing with lives.

“Americans took the bait,” said Alvin C. Jacobs, Jr.

Prosecutors say Russians pretended to be activists on social media, drummed up divisive political and social issues and planned rallies for both sides.

Those rallies were often at the same time and place in an effort to divide.

“It doesn’t matter where it comes from it is the fact that we took the bait,” said Jacobs.

Jacobs photographs protests. He’s troubled that Russians drew Americans out to rallies because he has seen the violence that can unfold when two sides clash.

“This isn’t a game,” said Jacobs. “This isn’t about feelings or emotions. People are dying.”

Charlotte City Council Member Braxton Winston is also troubled by the Russian influence.

As an activist, he spoke at the rally after seeing a flyer posted on social media.

“It got shared a lot among folks,” said Winston.

He never suspected Russian ties.

“There’s a lot of layers to do this, and it is kind of wild that we are a bit of a part of it,” said Winston.

“Social media happens fast, and people don’t really take the time to really understand from where its come,” said Mike Holland.

Holland works for cyber security company, Fortalice Solutions.

“Whatever you’re passionate about, you see something, you’re reacting to it, you are not thinking, ‘Is this person in some foreign country? Are they trying to get me to think in ways that maybe I wouldn’t otherwise?’,” said Holland.

Jacobs says the divisive issues the Russians used are all too real, and he hopes that’s not lost with Friday’s indictment.

“When you see things like this sometimes it’s meant to high jack the narrative,” said Jacobs.

Former Assistant Director of the FBI Chris Swecker says this type of interference has been happened for many years. He says he’s glad the American people are now aware. He expects more indictments.

He says Russia will likely protect the 13 charged. So, the U.S. will likely never arrest them. He says the indictments are more of a symbolic statement.