Like so many other potentially dangerous conspiracy theories, this one starts on 4chan.
On the forum’s website, notorious for its lack of moderation, users began sharing photos of a 20-year-old trans woman named Sam, who lives in Georgia, misidentifying her as the school shooter. Uvalde primary which killed 19 children and two adults on Tuesday.
The shooter’s true identity is 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, a cisgender man who was killed by police at the scene. But that hasn’t stopped misinformation from spreading, prompting conservatives, including the author Candace Owens and Information wars host Alex Jones to intervene. Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar went so far as to call Ramos a “left-wing transgender illegal alien.”
Like a coronavirus spreading among unmasked people, the fake conspiracy continued to spread – even after several news sites clarified that Ramos was not transgender and that the online theory was baseless.
On Wednesday afternoon, the debunked online rumor was being spread on Telegram and Instagram by Miami members of far-right groups Moms for Liberty Miami and Floridians First.
An article by the Floridians First Telegram group called the shooter “confused illegal”.
“Kids are confused…because of these insane agendas being pushed down their throats,” Eulalia Jimenez, president of the Miami chapter of Moms for Liberty Miami, said in an expired Instagram Story from @momsforlibertymiami. “Even the shooter – what, an 18-year-old transgender boy trying to be a girl?”
The Twitter account Miami Against Fascism (@MIAAgainstFash) archived the video Thursday morning.
In a sickening Instagram Story video posted yesterday, Miami Moms for Liberty President Eulalia Jimenez connects the Texas school shooting to the lie that the shooter is transgender.
She speaks of a “war on children” and “the madness [LGBTQ] the agenda is pushed down their throats” 🧵👇 pic.twitter.com/zoA6StjWO3
— Miami Against Fascism 🌴☕️ (@MIAagainstFash) May 26, 2022
Floridians First and Miami’s Moms for Liberty chapter did not return new times‘ request for comment, although the latter has blocked a new times reporter who sent a direct message asking for comment. Jimenez did not respond to requests for comment.
Miami Against Fascism, which tracks the activities of far-right groups in South Florida, also shared other incidents of misinformation about Uvalde’s shooter shared in local far-right circles.
“Right in line, Miami M4L and Proud Boy in front of Floridians First peddle [sic] bigoted lies from 4chan in their telegram that the Texas school shooter was trans,” the group tweeted Wednesday night.
In the queue, Miami M4L and Proud Boy front Floridians First peddle bigoted 4chan lies in their Telegram that the Texas school shooter was trans and a “confused illegal”. (see next tweet for info).#LyingEulalia pic.twitter.com/vSJ5nQh89W
— Miami Against Fascism 🌴☕️ (@MIAagainstFash) May 25, 2022
On Facebook, Floridians’ First Miami-Dade describes itself as a “grassroots organization that believes in America First, therefore Florida First.” But Miami Against Fascism and others have speculated it may be a front for the local Proud Boys in an effort to clean up their reputation following the publicity and indictments surrounding their participation in the uprising at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Similarly, the National Moms for Liberty organization (including its local Miami-Dade chapter) claims to champion “parental rights,” but activists have previously documented the extreme program right of the group and its alleged links to QAnon conspiracy theories.
Local Moms for Liberty leader Jimenez has shared a number of conspiracy theories on Instagram in the past, including a photo of the Jan. 6 uprising with the caption “The storm is upon us. Trust the process and a reference to COVID-19 vaccines as “poison.” (At the “January 6th Commemoration” in Miami earlier this year, Jimenez said new times at that time, she attended Donald Trump’s rally on the day of the uprising but did not enter the Capitol.)
At a press conference in mid-December, Jimenez shared the stage with Governor Ron DeSantis to promote passage of the so-called Stop WOKE Act, which prohibits educators from discussing certain race topics.
According to Trans Safety Network, a UK-based group that monitors online threats against the trans community, the photos that falsely identify the Texas shooter as transgender are those of three different transgender women, including Sam from Georgia, who asked BNC News to publish only her first name to protect her safety as she has already faced harassment and threats in connection with the incident.
“It’s not the first time I’ve been harassed,” she said, “but it’s the first time I’ve been charged with murder.”
Nic Zantop, deputy director of Transinclusive Group, a grassroots organization based in Broward that provides services to the local LGBTQ community, explains how an online rumor like this can hurt an already marginalized community.
“We are already seeing the violent ripple effects of this dangerous campaign of fear and scapegoating,” Zantop said. new times, referring to reports that a transgender high school student in Texas was assaulted by a group of men who believed misinformation about Uvalde’s shooter. “Too often transgender and LGBTQ+ people are the targets of hate and discrimination.”
The timing, Zantop says, couldn’t be worse.
“We face attacks on multiple fronts as the rise of anti-trans legislation further reinforces and emboldens violent rhetoric and actions against transgender people across the country and here in Florida,” Zantop said. “The last thing our communities need is more hate.”