A Russian group tried to exploit racial tension over Philando Castile, CNN says

They say a group tied to the Kremlin pretended to be aligned with Black Lives Matter.
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Demonstrators outside the Governor's Residence in July of 2016.

Demonstrators outside the Governor's Residence in July of 2016.

A Russian group meddling in American politics tried to exploit racial tension in the Twin Cities after last year's shooting of Philando Castile, an exclusive report by CNN says.

A campaign linked to the Kremlin created a group called Don't Shoot Us, the network reports, and falsely presented itself as being aligned with Black Lives Matter. 

Don't Shoot Us still has a website (DoNotShoot.us) highlighting allegations of police brutality around the U.S. 

According to CNN, the group used several now-suspended social media accounts to call attention to police brutality complaints in a campaign that may have had "the dual goal of galvanizing African Americans to protest and encouraging other Americans to view black activism as a rising threat."

What happened in Minnesota?

The day after Philando Castile was fatally shot during a traffic stop, demonstrators swarmed in front of the governor's home in St. Paul, protesting excessive use of force by police – especially against people of color. 

That same day – July 7, 2016 – the group Don't Shoot Us posted a Facebook event saying there would be a protest that night in front of the police station in St. Anthony, where the officer who shot Castile worked. 

But activists in the Twin Cities had not heard of Don't Shoot Us. 

Brandon Long, who chairs the Green Party of Minnesota, told CNN: "We frequently support Black Lives Matter protests and demonstrations and we know pretty much all the organizers in town and that page wasn't recognized by anyone."

CNN says an activist with a union-affiliated group they did not name looked into Don't Shoot Us, learning that they did not have a Minnesota chapter and that their website was registered to an address in Illinois that's actually the site of a shopping mall. 

The group that did the investigating then posted on their website that Don't Shoot Us was "a total troll job," CNN reports. 

Protesters remained in front of the Governor's Residence and demonstrations in St. Anthony did not materialize. 

Who is Don't Shoot Us?

CNN's investigation concluded that Don't Shoot Us was a campaign "that appears to have been run from one source -- the shadowy, Kremlin-linked troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency."

Back in 2015 The New York Times Magazine profiled the Internet Research Agency, saying it had "tried to wreak havoc all around the Internet — and in real-life American communities."

Quartz says more details about the Internet Research Agency emerged this week, including reports that in addition to a staff at their St. Petersburg, Russia, headquarters, they paid activists to travel the U.S. organizing rallies and publicizing them on Facebook. 

Don't Shoot Us also used Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Tumpbr, and even Pokemon Go to sow division among Americans, CNN says. 

Their report says officials with Facebook, Twitter, and Alphabet – the parent company of Google and YouTube – will testify before the Senate and House Intelligence Committees on November 1. 

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