Comedian Sued For Creating Fake 'Antifa' Events on Facebook

An image posted to a satirical Facebook event showing “antifa” invading Louisiana like a hurricane, though the “storm” is actually a fidget spinner with an anti-fascist logo.
An image posted to a satirical Facebook event showing “antifa” invading Louisiana like a hurricane, though the “storm” is actually a fidget spinner with an anti-fascist logo.
Screenshot: Facebook

The mayor of Lafayette, Louisiana has filed a lawsuit against a 28-year-old comedian who created three fake events on Facebook that claimed “antifa” was coming to the town. Police responded to one of the fake events in late August with at least 30 squad cars and heavily armed officers, shutting down a shopping mall and deeply embarrassing the cops.

The lawsuit, first reported by the Advocate newspaper, was filed by Mayor Josh Guillory who announced yesterday on his AM radio show that the city, “will stop at no measure to recoup the costs that the taxpayers have to pay for this kind of stuff.”

The viral event creator, John Merrifield, currently lives in New York but grew up in Louisiana, according to the Lafayette Daily Advertiser. Merrifield runs a Facebook group called cajUUUn Memes, which posts very region-specific jokes, and hosts a podcast called Oof Comedy.

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Merrifield told local newspapers in Lafayette that his fake events were intended to highlight how the police prioritize the wealthy over the poor and noted that police shot and killed Trayford Pellerin, a 31-year-old Black man, in a hail of bullets as recently as August 21. Merrifield believes anyone who thought his fake “antifa” events were real are simply idiots.

“Fool you once, shame on me. Fool you twice, shame on you,” Merrifield told the Advertiser. “I’m not going to apologize to the citizens of Lafayette who were gullible enough to fall for a satire event created by a comedy meme page run by a satirist and comedian twice.”

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The first satirical Facebook event created by Merrifield was called “ANTIFA takes River Ranch,” and was “scheduled” for July 11. It’s clear from even a cursory look that the event is a joke, with lines like “Card-carrying ANTIFA members ONLY!” and “WEAR YOUR UNIFORMS” punctuated by clapping emojis. The event also said, “Arms optional. Legs encouraged.”

Antifa is the name given to a leaderless movement of left-wing activists currently advocating against the rise of fascism in the U.S. and abroad, though many Republicans insist antifa has a top-down hierarchy that needs to be destroyed through RICO charges.

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Illustration for article titled Comedian Sued For Creating Fake Antifa Events on Facebook
Screenshot: Facebook

People who identify with antifa do not have membership cards and certainly don’t have official uniforms, despite the fact that many Republicans seem to believe this kind of coordination is taking place across the country.

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President Donald Trump even made the claim in a recent interview with Fox News that left-wing protesters were spotted in antifa uniforms on a commercial flight somewhere in the U.S., though he wouldn’t give specifics. The few details of this alleged flight, however, have changed repeatedly during Trump’s retelling of the story, and it’s identical to a viral Facebook meme from July.

A second joke event created by Merrifield was called “Antifa Takes Acadiana Mall” and scheduled for August 29, but has since been deleted by Facebook. That event prompted dozens of police cars to show up at the mall in an aggressive response, according to several news reports. The police were made to look like idiots, since there was no sign of a disturbance.

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From the Advertiser:

That night, Lafayette Police Chief Scott Morgan said during a press conference the response at the mall was not because of protests. He said the abrupt way the mall closed may have “given people the wrong idea.” Prior to the closure, there had been no threats, protests or riots, a department spokesman said at the time.

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The “Antifa Takes Acadiana Mall” Facebook page reportedly included a verified GoFundMe link to support the family of Pellerin, whose shooting prompted real protests in the city, which have remained peaceful. Pellerin was shot ten times by police near a convenience store and protesters marched near Acadiana Mall to protest the slaying, long before the fake Facebook page was created.

Police in Lafayette insist they tried to first use a non-lethal taser on Pellerin, who they claim had a knife, but an independent autopsy conducted by Pellerin’s family found no evidence he had been tased. Viral video from social media also shows no attempt by the officers to use a taser.

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Another fake event, titled “ANTIFA Takes Laura,” was created earlier this week, before Merrifield learned he was being sued, and is “scheduled” for September 11. The Facebook event, much like the others, is clearly a joke.

From the event page:

We have the technology. We have the numbers. We just need more funding, as Mr. Soros temporarily cut us off for skipping him in the rotation. Thanks a lot, Conrad.

[...]

We want YOU to join ANTIFA in our fight against the most fearsome fascist of all, Mother Nature herself! Enlist here:

The Facebook event sends users who are interested in joining the “antifa” rally to a GoFundMe fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Laura, which recently hit Louisiana, killing at least 20 people.

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The fake event also links to an Amazon page for Mutual Aid Disaster Relief where people can buy supplies for those affected by the hurricane, as well as a Google Docs page where people in Louisiana who’ve lost everything can raise their hand to receive assistance.

The lawsuit claims that Merrifield’s own mom believed that antifa was descending on the town, according to the Advocate. But Merrifield didn’t want his family to get dragged into his new legal troubles.

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“Tell them they can leave my mamma out of it,” Merrifield told the newspaper.

Update, 9:45 a.m.: Someone just posted a copy of the lawsuit on Dropbox, and it’s even weirder than local news outlets in Louisiana let on. The suit even cites a tweet from President Trump on May 31, 2020 declaring Antifa to be a terrorist organization.

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Illustration for article titled Comedian Sued For Creating Fake Antifa Events on Facebook
Screenshot: Dropbox

The lawsuit says that a group called Right Side Millennial took the Merrifield’s fake antifa event for July 11 seriously, and that the group might organize a counter-protest. As of today, it appears the Right Side Millennial group on Facebook has precisely nine members. The lawsuit alleges that this caused “concerned citizens” to flood the local government with phone calls.

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Illustration for article titled Comedian Sued For Creating Fake Antifa Events on Facebook
Screenshot: Dropbox

The suit also alleges that “mall employees and customers” made “panicked calls” to the Lafayette Police Department who were worried about Merrifield’s second fake antifa event, Antifa Takes Acadiana Mall,” which was scheduled for August 29.

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Illustration for article titled Comedian Sued For Creating Fake Antifa Events on Facebook
Screenshot: Dropbox

The lawsuit ends by saying the city wants to recoup financial losses for its Police Department because it chased down the fake Facebook events, and while it doesn’t specify the exact amount of money, it notes the damages sought are “under $75,000.”

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Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog

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DISCUSSION

arcanumv
Arcanum Five

These seem like the same kind of people who forward articles from The Onion and the Babylon Bee with panicky commentary.

At what point in becoming a conservative does one lose the ability to spot humor, satire, irony, and sarcasm? Is it really early and that’s what draws them to the right? Or does it happen later after immersion in the culture?