A website that claims to represent a San Francisco-based company called Demand Protest supposedly paying "operatives" as much as $2,500 a month "on top of standard per-event pay of $50/hr" for their work as hired protesters is making the alt-right rounds today on forums like 4chan and 8chan, as well websites like Breitbart, Infowars, and the Washington Times.
Demand Protest, which purports to be a group of "strategists mobilizing millennials across the globe with seeded audiences and desirable messages" has some on the far-right downright giddy, presented with what they perceive as evidence confirming their conspiracy-minded suspicions that, say, Trump protesters are simply paid shills rather than legitimately concerned citizens and Black Lives Matter activists are in it for the money rather than, you know, the racial justice.
But even Infowars had to couch its report on Demand Protest with skepticism, as the website and "company" appear to be a false flag operation. Although Demand Protest has a working phone number with a San Francisco 415 area code, SFist has tried several times and failed to find any way to speak to an actual human person at the number you can attempt to key in any extension number, and it simply says "not found" and hangs up on you.
While the site claims that "Demand Protest is the largest private grassroots support organization in the United States," Demand Protest is not a registered LLC in the state of California. Finally, while Demand Protest claims it has worked with 15 partners on 17 causes during 48 campaigns boasting 1817 operatives, those figures are suspicious considering that Demand Protest was first created on December 2nd. That's some very fast work in less than two months, and the timeline is also thrown into question by a "testimonial" quote purportedly from a campaign chair for an "unnamed 2016 presidential campaign." That statement touts the "momentous changes as a result of our first two campaigns," which is odd considering that the 2016 presidential campaign was over and done by the time Demand Protest created its web domain.
The Washington Times cites job ads from Demand Protest running in 20 cities on backpage.com. "We pay people already politically motivated to fight for the things they believe," those read. "You were going to take action anyways, why not do so with us! We are currently seeking operatives to help send a strong message at upcoming inauguration protests." A reverse image search of the supposed logo for this, the "largest private grassroots support organization in the US," shows that the image of a fist is little more than generic clipart.
While to me, Demand Protest looks like an obvious sham organization created for the purpose of dismissing real, grassroots protesters for liberal causes as potentially paid operatives, far-right sites like truthfeed see it differently. They speculate that Demand Protest could be linked to Democratic donor and activist George Soros. It's "hard to tell if they are associated with Soros but considering all of the violent protest movements are Soros funded, #BlackLivesMatter and #Occupy, it is a safe bet that Soros is also funding this radical leftist group." Very hard to tell indeed. (Also, just to make sure no one's confused here, Soros has nothing to do with Black Lives Matter, though the alt-right has seized on the fact that a grantmaking group he once founded did give some money to groups engaging in Ferguson-related protests and activities.)
More likely Demand Protest could be linked to someone like fake news wunderkind James O'Keefe, the guy behind the 2009 "pimp" hoax involving Acorn and the 2015 hoax videos about Planned Parenthood harvesting fetus organs, and who the HuffPo reports was recently caught by activists on the left attempting to bribe them with large sums of money to incite a riot or "shut down a bridge" during Trump's inauguration.
Donald Trump himself has suggested, without basis, that protesters are paid to agitate against him in an appearance on CBS's 60 Minutes, perhaps because he read something to that effect on the aforementioned far-right websites. Here Politifact offers one salient example: A fake news story during the presidential campaign in which a protester supposedly claimed he was paid $3,500 to agitate at a Trump rally. That was entirely discredited when a Facebook fake-news writer came forward to confess that he'd written the story himself, inventing it from whole cloth. Paul Horner, a man who has convinced people he's the graffiti artist Banksy, told the Washington Post "[Trump's] followers don’t fact-check anything — they’ll post everything, believe anything." With reference to onetime Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, Horner added that, "His campaign manager posted my story about a protester getting paid $3,500 as fact. Like, I made that up. I posted a fake ad on Craigslist."
Related: SF Women's March Expects 60K Turnout As More Inauguration-Related Demonstrations Planned