The Mess in Detroit Is Getting Worse Thanks to Facebook

The Mess in Detroit Is Getting Worse Thanks to Facebook
Photo: JEFF KOWALSKY / Contributor, Getty Images

Dozens of protesters that showed up to disrupt the vote counting process at Detroit’s TCF Centre on Wednesday were potentially galvanised into action by a pro-Trump Facebook group, which had blasted out a message hours earlier urging its 79,000 members to “be a presence” at the ballot-counting site.

The Facebook group in question, Stand Up Michigan to Unlock Michigan, is a private Lansing-based page that boasts members who are “passionate about advancing freedom,” according to its description. The group was previously used as a hub to discuss and protest COVID-19 restrictions that included a stay-at-home order in the state, which some residents had famously been a bit miffed about (they tried to kidnap the governor).

On Wednesday, a group administrator posted an “Urgent call to action in Detroit,” in Stand Up Michigan to Unlock Michigan encouraging any users stationed outside the TCF Centre to “just be a presence” and to “pray, take photos, take videos.”

Undoubtedly incensed by President Donald Trump’s repeated insinuations that Democrats are in the middle of an attempt to hijack the election results, Republican challengers banged on windows outside the TCF Centre, demanding that they be allowed to enter the counting area in order to oversee the tallying process. According to the Detroit Free Press, despite protesters’ chants of “Let us in” and “Stop the count,” the counting of Detroit’s more than 170,000 absentee ballots continued.

Even if the protesters that showed up to the TCF Centre on Wednesday weren’t sent there by a Facebook group, the incident is an important reminder of the ways conservatives have been using their anti-COVID-19 lockdown Facebook groups to organise around other right-wing causes, including protesting the Black Lives Matter movement and encouraging protests of the election results.

Either way, it looks like pro-Trump protesters’ efforts were in vain: Biden has sailed to victory in Michigan, clinching a critical swing state that will play a key role in his pathway to victory.