As the vote count continued in Philadelphia on Thursday, bringing Joe Biden closer and closer to victory in the state, residents of the city received a disturbing text message.
“Radical Liberals and Democrats are trying to steal this election from Trump!” Read the text. “We need YOU! Show your support on the corner of 12th St. & Arch St. in Philadelphia.”
The message sounded like the fodder of a Trump tweet: As President Donald Trump’s chances of victory dwindled, he and his party cronies were claiming, without merit, that Democrats were cheating and trying to “steal” a victory. Instead, as the votes were counted in Philadelphia and its suburbs Thursday night and Friday morning, it became increasingly likely that Democratic candidate Joe Biden would win Pennsylvania and, with it, the presidency.
But the text urged recipients to take more specific action, with potentially nightmarish consequences.
The intersection of 12th and Arch streets – near the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where the votes were and still are being counted – was the site of a large pro-democracy protest, with “count every vote” banners and dancers dressed in costumes from the ballot box.
The region was also home to more extreme actors, and later that night would become the site of an alleged conspiracy by two heavily armed men who were traveling between states to get there.
Dozens of social media users posted on receiving the text. They probably represented a fraction of the recipients. A Philadelphia woman who shared a screenshot of the post told The Daily Beast that several friends in her area also received the text.
Tom McMenamin, who lives just outside of Philadelphia, received the message and said he viewed it as part of a campaign to discredit the vote count.
“Of course, this is to arouse mockery and fear, and to make people doubt the sincerity of election officials. They are just following the request of their cult leader, ”McMenamin told The Daily Beast.
At least 13 phone numbers that sent the messages belonged to corporate communications company Twilio, which rents these numbers for political and advertising campaigns. A Twilio spokesperson said the messages violated their terms of service and that they subsequently closed those numbers.
“We have received several complaints from recipients of messages suggesting the election is stolen,” the spokesperson told The Daily Beast. “Because these messages were sent without language of consumer disengagement, which is in direct violation of our policies, we have shut down the phone numbers in question. Additionally, given the sensitive electoral environment, we will be very careful as to the restoration of e-mail functionality for anyone who has violated our policies in this area. “
The company did not provide any information on the person or group behind the campaign. However, the Washington post reported on Friday morning that some of the numbers had been hired by Opn Sesame, a company that provides mass text messaging services to Republican campaigns, and was named in a complaint this summer accusing the Trump campaign of making off-the-book payments to subcontractors, including Opn Sesame. An article in a trade publication this summer identified Opn Sesame as managing text advertising for the Trump campaign, and the CEO of Opn Sesame is listed on LinkedIn as the digital director of the Trump campaign.
Neither the Trump campaign nor Opn Sesame immediately returned requests for comment.
Meanwhile, the Trump campaign and its supporters have repeatedly assaulted Philadelphia – a strong Democratic electoral bloc in critical condition – as a source of suspicion.
Despite no evidence of voter fraud, the campaign staged several events in the city to expose the ongoing vote count, which on Friday afternoon showed a massive lead from Biden locally and a growing increase statewide . Supporters of Biden, and the counting of all votes, gathered for days on 12th and Arch streets to encourage the counting process.
A small contingent of Trump supporters gathered across the street throughout the week, baselessly accusing Democrats of cheating. The threat of violence stalked some of the protests. Members of the Proud Boys, a far-right paramilitary group, were photographed on the anti-count side of the protest, and online memes called for a protest at the site on Friday.
Police reportedly arrested two men on Thursday evening in connection with an alleged plot to attack the site. The men allegedly drove to Philadelphia from Virginia with guns, in a Hummer decorated with stickers promoting QAnon’s conspiracy theory. (The theory, which previously led believers to violence, falsely accuses Trump’s enemies of satanic pedophilia and cannibalism. QAnon networks have actively promoted Trump’s conspiracy theories of voter fraud.)
A spokesman for Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said the mayor’s office “cannot speak to the veracity” of the threatening message Philadelphians received Thursday.
“I can tell you that since the election, no arrests have been made for election-related activities,” the spokesperson said, hours before the arrests of the Virginia men. “The crowds were generally peaceful and respectful.”
#Creepy #texts #hissed #Trump #supporters #Philly #VoteCount