by Christian Sandvig
When I saw an Instagram post of my friend with an M.D. marching with Doctors and Nurses for Black Lives Matter, I made the decision to go outside and peacefully protest despite the pandemic. I was worried, but I thought, “If it’s safe enough for the doctors…”
It was hard to find out where the protests were happening. In Detroit: ample media coverage. In Ann Arbor… nothing. All of the protest hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter were choked with well-meaning messages (or later, black squares) that didn’t contain any information. Some people posted that they found marches accidentally by just wandering around, but they couldn’t find them on social media.
I started searching every social media platform for “Ann Arbor” every morning. Mostly spam. Make a killing in the Ann Arbor real estate market. Our Ann Arbor gym now has workout pods for social distancing. The local donut shop announces it is against police brutality.
Then I found some posts warning me to “watch out!” They said that convoys of armed soldiers were heading for Ann Arbor right now to quell the protests. The posts had a picture of a convoy of humvees on a highway. The photo could have been taken anywhere. When I tried to go back and find these posts again, they had been removed and the accounts that posted them were gone.
I was being a little simple. I thought: “How could they know that some trucks on a highway are heading to Ann Arbor? Highways near here are not arranged that way.”
Then I saw posts that said, “Pray for us… 6,000 rioters and looters are coming by bus to _____.” But in different posts the blank space had different city names.
Next I found posts warning that the Department of Homeland Security was following protesters with Predator drones with high-resolution cameras, infrared, radar, etc. I thought: “Great, more misinformation.” That one turned out to be true.