HOUSTON - A year-and-a-half-old anti-Muslim rally in Houston is making headlines now.
That’s because it was reportedly organized by Russian hackers pretending to be Texans.
It’s the latest example of potential Russian meddling in the U.S. The rally took place in May of 2016 outside the Islamic Da’wah Center downtown. About a dozen or so people waving rebel flags and chanting, “White lives matter” were in attendance.
The group was greatly outnumbered by counter-protestors.
“We got about 135 people, Muslims, Christians, people of different creeds and faiths, out there to oppose their message of hate,” said Dr. David Michael Smith of the Houston Socialist Movement.
Those protesting the center had been prompted by a Facebook group called “Heart of Texas.” But no one directly related to the website actually showed up.
“Now we know why,” Smith said.
Citing sources familiar with the matter, CNN was first to report anti-Islamic propaganda posted by the “Heart of Texas” actually originated in the heart of Russia. It’s a so-called “troll factory” called the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg.
That makes what happened here another example of how overseas interference may have created discord during our Presidential election.
“Social media is wonderful, the technology is fabulous,” Smith said. “On the other hand, like other kinds of technology, you can use if for different purposes.”
The “Heart of Texas” Facebook page account is reportedly among nearly 500 suspicious sites turned over to Congress as part of a larger investigation.
The Islamic Da’wah Center did not wish to address the rally or new information directly. It issued this statement:
“Regardless of who was behind it, this unfortunate event is in the past. Instead of dwelling on it , we should reflect on the event with an open mind. The protest demonstrated how Houstonians exercised their constitutional right to voice their opinions peacefully. The hateful words and symbols protesters used tells us that our work is essential to replace those words with words of compassion and understanding. Finally Kudos to our Houston police department that deserves to be the envy of the country. They dealt with the situation in the most professional manner by maintaining the safety and security to all parties.”
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