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Antifa protest fails to materialize

LISBON — Local law enforcement was on a heightened state of alert Wednesday because of a social media post indicating antifa was planning to visit Lisbon, East Liverpool and Wellsville.

Antifa has been participating in the protests and riots that have swept the nation in response to the death of George Floyd while in police custody. President Trump said he intends to designate antifa a domestic terrorist organization.

County Sheriff Ray Stone said his department received a call Tuesday night from East Liverpool police to alert them about the post on an antifa-related Facebook page. It stated the local antifa affiliate was planning a “suburban riot” on Wednesday, starting in Lisbon before heading to Wellsville and finishing in East Liverpool, which was the site of a peaceful protest on Saturday.

Wednesday came and went without a protest, although there were unconfirmed reports of a lone female protester holding a sign near the gazebo in the Lisbon town square about 3 p.m.

“Nothing happened that I could tell,” said Lisbon Police Chief Mike Abraham.

Neither Abraham, Stone, East Liverpool Police Chief John Lane or any other local law enforcement were taking any chances. Abraham and Lane scheduled additional officers for duty during the day, and Stone said he was fortunate because he already had extra deputies available Wednesday.

“We had training scheduled for (Wednesday) so we had five extra deputies if we needed them, but it didn’t come to that,” Stone said.

Abraham had extra officers on duty patrolling Lisbon, and Lane said he scheduled extra officers to work the afternoon and night shifts as well.

NBC News reported Tuesday false rumors were spreading on Twitter that antifa was organizing bus rides to transport protesters to white neighborhoods and loot homes. NBC quoted Twitter as saying the rumors were posted on a fake account created by a white nationalist group.

Even though Lane did not believe the threat was credible, he said you have to err on the side of caution.

“I don’t think there was any truth to it, but I think this is going to go on until election day,” Lane said, referring to the presidential election in November.

Abraham agreed about taking all threats seriously, whether substantiated or not. “They were talking about the middle of the day, when the courthouse and businesses are full,” he said of the supposed protest.

As the rumor spread, some Lisbon banks contacted Abraham and asked whether they should close for the day, and at least one did. “If they closed that was their decision,” he said, adding it was his understanding bank lobbies remain closed to the public because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Abraham said Lisbon has the advantage of being in close proximity to the sheriff’s office and the local highway patrol barracks. He thanked the sheriff’s office and the OSP for making staff available in town during the day.

Rumors spread that other communities were targets, and one of those was Calcutta in St. Clair Township. Abraham said he spoke several times during the day with St. Clair Township Police Chief Brian McKenzie, and nothing happened there either.

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