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Colorado made national news this week when a few healthcare workers from a Denver hospital staged a counter-protest by standing in front of hundreds of other Coloradans protesting Governor Polis’ strict stay-at-home orders. According to NBC News, Alexis, one of the health care workers counter-protesting, said the protest felt like, “ a slap in the face to medical workers.”

Alexis is a nurse in Denver who explained. “I don’t want to be stuck in my house either. I don’t think many people at all are enjoying this. That’s not the point.” 

Governor Polis’ order aligned with most other state’s similar orders regarding stemming the spread of the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19.

As of April 20, The New York Times had reported a total of eight states with minimal local restrictions or no restrictions at all. Specifically, five states, Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota do not have state enacted stay-at-home orders. Three states, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming have some locally directed stay-at-home orders. Half of the eight states that have either no, or only some, locally directed stay-at-home orders border Colorado. Colorado only has seven bordering states. 

Courtesy NBC News

Despite Colorado’s relative isolation among states with few coronavirus quarantine restrictions, Fox News identified Colorado along with over 30 other states where similar stay-at-home order protests were occurring. Some of the largest protests occurred in Washington, California, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Alabama, and Texas.

Most protests saw strong alt-right, white supremacist, and 2nd Amendment influences and undertones. As a result, many protesters were seen carrying firearms, primarily assault rifles and wearing tactical gear.   

Some of those protesting may be surprised to learn that across the nation, many protests are being organized by white supremacist organizations. What’s more, these white supremacists are often leading the actual protests. Oren Segal, Vice President of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), identified two men at a Columbus, Ohio protest that are known Neo-Nazi’s. In southern California, white supremacist leader, Roger Ogden, helped organize the San Diego protest against the stay-at-home orders. Ogden was subsequently outed on social media by a local hate group observer.

As has become the new norm, these protests were seeded and propagated by large social media campaigns and movements. However, given the size, scope and strong online hate group presence in organizing these protests, law enforcement and anti-hate group organizations are taking notice.

Organizations like the ADL and even some political groups like the Minnesota Republicans are attempting to shine some light and warn citizens about these social media groups.

Chief among the funders of these groups is the Dorr family. NBC News reported on April 20, that the Dorrs are a conservative activist family who’s far right positions often attack other conservative groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA) for being too soft. More specifically, the four Dorr brothers Chris, Ben, Aaron, and Matthew, “are known among mainstream conservative activists for inflammatory campaigns that harvest data.”

NBC journalists Brandy Zandrozny and Ben Collins’ analysis showed that the Dorr brothers were responsible for amassing more than 200,000 Facebook followers and organized numerous protest events in other states.

According to NBC, the Minnesota Republican Caucus launched a website in February warning against the Dorrs and other similar scams online.

“Over the last few years, several scammers have popped up in conservative politics in Minnesota,” the website stated. “On their face, it looks like they are doing the Lord’s work; advocating for Second Amendment rights, pro-life views, elections integrity, and even supporting President Trump. But a little investigation reveals they are actually just building their own brand and raising money by cashing in on unsuspecting Minnesotans sympathetic to their message.”

Renee DiResta, research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, who was interviewed by NBC in the Dorr’s case, summed up other potential social media scams. “This sort of Facebook activity is common,…and it allows for a small group with money and media manipulation skills to simulate the appearance of a much larger movement. It also allows the group to harvest email addresses for future political campaigns, which can be bought and sold.”

Colorado Facebook page set up by Dorr family members protesting the stay-at-home orders.

As of this writing, no conservative group in Colorado has warned its citizens and potential voters about the potential scams occurring in various conservative social media groups and websites related to the protests. In fact, the apparent organizing force behind Colorado’s stay-at-home protests is the political group Colorado Freedom Force.

Colorado Freedom Force advertisement on Facebook.

Colorado Politics, a Colorado-specific online news media, reported on November 12, 2019, that the Resist Polis PAC was renamed the Colorado Freedom Force earlier in November 2019.

An examination of the website shows very little biographical information or images about its administrators or founders. There are, however, several places to donate.

Featured photo: Colorado made national news this week when a few healthcare workers from a Denver hospital staged a counter-protest on April 19 by standing in front of hundreds of other Coloradans protesting Governor Polis’ strict stay-at-home orders. Photo credit: Alyson McClaran—Reuters.

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