Protesters who stormed a vote counting website in Detroit on Wednesday, knocked on windows and shouted "Stop the count!" seem to have one thing in common: They organized themselves online.
An analysis by the New York Times found that 32 public and private Facebook groups with a total of 301,000 followers organized an "Urgent Call to Action in Detroit," asking Republican election officials to monitor the vote count in the downtown area, the TCF Center . The call was also shared on less popular social networks like Parler and the pro-Trump website TheDonald.win.
The earliest call for additional challengers to the Republican poll was posted on Facebook at 7:27 a.m., according to the Times analysis. "Come to the TCF Center," read the post in a group called Michigan for Donald Trump. “We needed help to protect our lead. Tell others "
Dozens of calls were posted on Facebook around 3:00 p.m. and people responded by showing up. By then, over 100 people were at the location of the vote count.
NBC News previously reported on a private Facebook group, Stand Up Michigan, to unblock Michigan that was part of the calls. Facebook removed the group shortly afterwards.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
After the protesters arrived, workers began covering the construction site's windows, leading to unfounded rumors about their motivations. Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, shared such a video and wrote her post "SHADY …". It garnered 62,000 likes and shares on Twitter and 7.3 million video views. On Wednesday evening, President Trump tweeted about the lie and generated more than 350,000 likes and shares.
Lawrence Garcia, the city of Detroit's business consultant, said the windows had been covered because election officials inside raised concerns that people were taking unauthorized photos and videos of their work.
"Only the media are allowed to take photos inside the counting station," he said, "and people outside the center did not listen to requests to stop shooting election workers and their records."
Jake Rollow, the Michigan State Department's communications director, vehemently opposed the misleading narrative. "Michigan's postal ballot counting procedures are meticulous, fair and transparent," he said. "The non-partisan committees of the district and public prosecutors will review the processes and results in the next 12 days."