Russian trolls tricked Americans into helping them sow divisions along racial lines leading up to the 2016 election and into 2017—even right here in Brooklyn.
A phony website called “Black Fist” paid Bed-Stuy based activist Omowale Adewale to hold self-defense classes geared towards African-Americans, Buzzfeed News reports.
The website, which is still up, contains little information, but describes the classes as “Organized by Black for Black,” and encourages attendees to “Be ready to protect your rights” and “Let them know that Black Power Matters.”
The contact, “Taylor,” got in touch with Adewale via Instagram, offering him money to run the classes in Queens and Brooklyn. They negotiated a rate of $320 per month.
While sometimes the classes weren’t attended, the troll farm paid for Facebook advertising and used their “Black Fist” Instagram and Facebook accounts, which had more than 100,000 followers.
However, Adewale grew suspicious when there were issues with payment, and because the “Taylor” who had contacted him didn’t discuss politics or activism.
The classes came to an end in May, and the false sites disappeared, but it wasn’t until recent reporting on the prevalence of Russian “troll farms” that Adewale started to make the connection.
“It’s really diabolical,” Adewale told the Daily News. “I detest Trump.”
An advertisement for the classes from Adewale’s Instagram can be seen below:
@Regrann from @_pro_blackfist_ – NEW YORK!? BROOKLYN AND QUEENS!!! Join our self-defense classes with @omowaleadewale ✊? on Fridays and Saturdays, now you can choose when and where it’s better for you to come. It’s free for everyone. Pay as much as you want directly to the coach. Feel safe with us and bring your friends. For those who have already been added to the list of participants, pay your attention to the time! It will start earlier in Brooklyn☝ If you are in, DM us please to be in the list of participants. ? Thank you!✊ _________ Also if you are a trainer? DM! We are always glad to cooperate with any trainer who would like to help black community in USA. If you want to take part in our project? DM! #selfdefense #ny #newyork #brooklyn #selfsefenseclass #fightforyourlife #blackfist #blackpower #fight #martialarts #insidedefense #fightforyourlife #fitforlife #fightback #blackpower #martialarts #kickboxing #staysafe #defendYourself #DefendYourself #BeYourOwnWeapon#ThemHands – #regrann