The 18-second video that landed one local in President Trump's crosshairs
The whole video lasts just 18 seconds.
Recorded on Saturday, May 30, near the intersection of High and Russell streets in the Short North, it shows a bearded man as he makes arrangements of some kind. When the video opens, he can be seen handing a group of cyclists a small wad of cash. “We’re building a barricade. Go get us everything you can find,” he says, adding, “These are the boys right here. This is the team.” The man, who is dressed in dark jeans, a denim jacket and a black stocking cap, then turns his attention back to others standing nearby. “There’s more stuff we can put out here,” he says. “Hey, there’s three picnic tables up here.”
The video then ends. Nothing else happens. No crimes are committed. It’s not even clear what the viewer has actually witnessed, other than a disconnected fragment from a single chaotic scene in a week-plus of global protests filled with them. And yet this particular video quickly captured the attention of the right wing on social media, whose members labeled the man Antifa, breaking down the video frame by frame in Zapruder-like detail. They said the money paid out in the video was enticement for others to riot. They hypothesized that the picnic tables were going to be used to start fires, and that the barricade was part of a front being constructed from which to attack police.
As with any viral video, things started small. The clip was uploaded to YouTube and shared on Reddit, Facebook and 4chan. Twitter users with middling numbers of followers posted the fragment, which was soon picked up by aggregate accounts that collect videos and images useful to advance a discredited right wing narrative that the violence that had erupted at protests nationwide could be traced to Antifa, a loose-knit political protest movement that has become the most recent conservative bogeyman.
By Sunday morning, the video, which had circulated among Twitter accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers, had been shared by the Columbus Division of Police, which cited the man as “a person of interest” in posts made on Twitter and Facebook.