TOMS RIVER – There was never going to be an attack by looters or domestic terrorists in Toms River, and it was all a rumor spread on social media, police said.
There were plenty of rumors before the event, and even days later. People shared statements that Antifa was going to go door to door looting houses. Another rumor stated that a terrorist group chartered two buses to go to the event.
“There is absolutely no evidence to support either,” Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer said. “I put out a statement Monday night (the night of the protest) to try to quell the social media rumors that were circulating. The rumors continued throughout the day…despite our best efforts to accurately inform the public. Both are completely untrue and are the result of people sharing misinformation on social media.”
The rumors had been started first on Twitter by an account claiming to be affiliated with Black Lives Matter. It was later revealed to be a neo-nazi group posing as BLM. In the news over the last week, reports have come in about racists making peaceful protests worse by lying on social media, mixing in with protesters to attack police, or leaving bricks near protest sites with the expectation that protesters will use them.
The Toms River protest itself was peaceful and brought together about 300 residents, clergy police, and elected officials. They prayed and walked together in unity to protest the murder of George Floyd and systemic racism.
It had been started by Toms River resident Katrina Garcia.
“I can’t be more proud and honored” with regards to her fellow protesters. “They really kept with the goal, which was peace.”